Monday, February 23, 2015

Top five most overlooked tax deductions

 Brett Sholtis for writes:   Tax season is upon us, and though it may seem far away now, that April 15 deadline will be here soon. 

Whether you have a trusted tax accountant or you process your own taxes, it's always possible that you're not getting the most out of your annual return. 

Claire Weaver, a shareholder at the accounting firm SF & Company, highlighted five deductions that she said many people don't know about. While not everyone has a child in college or investments in a brokerage company, she said one or two of these deductions is likely to save you money.
Education credits
Weaver said most full-time students are aware of the American Opportunity Credit, which can be up to $2,500 per student, though only undergraduate college students with a set number of class credits are eligible.

However, there's also a Lifetime Learning Credit, which has fewer restrictions, as well as the option to go with a tuition and fees deduction.
"People have to see which one they can use on their return, and which one gives them most benefit tax-wise," Weaver said. "In situations like this, where you're trying to maximize your tax package, it's beneficial to have software to see which one gives a bigger return."
If you donate a security that has increased in value...
Weaver said this is one of the most commonly underused opportunities for those with stocks who also give to charity.
Let's say you bought a stock for $1,000. Its value increased, and you want to sell it for its new value, $3,000.

Normally, you have to pay a capital gains tax on the sale.
"If you're charitably inclined, and you're someone who may ordinarily give that $3,000 to charity, you don't have to pay the capital gains on that stock, as long as you transfer it straight to the charity," Weaver said.

So instead of selling the stock, paying taxes and ending up with a sum less than $3,000, you're able to donate the entire amount. Of course, you're also able to write off that charitable giving when you file your taxes.
Foreign tax credit
Weaver said that the foreign tax credit is probably the second most commonly overlooked deduction, because people with mutual funds and other investments tend not to sift through the individual stocks in their portfolio to see if they're foreign.
Basically, your investment statement will indicate if you paid a tax on a foreign stock. If so, you can take a credit on that return.
Though this credit may also apply for those with foreign properties, Weaver said you primarily see this situation when somebody has investments in a brokerage company. If there's any tax that's paid and it shows up on your brokerage statement, you can take a tax credit on that on your return.
"Take the time to look at your brokerage statement," Weaver said. "You may not even know that you have some foreign stocks."
Job hunting costs
If you're looking for a job and you incur expenses buying plane tickets, driving, or even buying things directly related to the job search, you can deduct those costs.
However, Weaver said that the deduction is only good for jobs within "your current occupation." As she put it, if you're an engineer looking for a new engineering job, you're good to go. If you're an engineer trying to become a Broadway star— sorry, you're going to have to foot the bill on your own, without a tax credit.
Weaver said that you don't even have to be unemployed while searching for a new job. You can still claim the credit.
Mortgage insurance premiums
Many homeowners pay mortgage insurance, and Weaver said you'd be surprised how many people overlook this deduction.
"Normally, this shows up on the 1099 you get from the insurance company," Weaver said. "Even though it's called a mortgage insurance 'premium,' the amount that you pay each year is deductible."
To be fair, she said people sometimes confuse mortgage insurance with homeowner's insurance, which is not deductible.
Posted on 5:34 AM | Categories:

Investors, Don't Make These Tax Blunders / Mistimed sales, Roth-conversion mistakes, and failing to plan for unforeseen events top readers' lists.

Adam Zoll for writes: It's often said that one shouldn't let the tax tail wag the investment dog, which is just a cute way of saying that tax considerations should not dominate one's investment decision-making process. However, that doesn't mean one should ignore taxes altogether, as tax-smart investing can pad investors' aftertax returns while tax-ignorant investing can erode them. readers on our Personal Finance discussion board were asked last week to recall some of their worst investment-related tax mistakes and came up with quite a list. Some were classic beginner missteps--such as selling shares at the wrong time and, thus, triggering a larger-than-anticipated tax bill--while others involved unforeseen life changes. Fortunately, we can all learn from the mistakes fellow readers have shared and try to avoid them ourselves. 

You can read the full discussion here, including the excerpts that follow. And stay tuned to in the days to come as we present our annual Tax Relief Week special report.

Tax Tumult Takes Many Forms
The sheer variety of tax blunders readers said they'd made was somewhat surprising in itself.
"I keep forgetting that selling stock, even out of a mutual fund, is considered income," wrote Sergeantmajor. "I've got to check this next time, and perhaps find needed capital elsewhere. I am now keeping back a larger portion of cash in my portfolio for unexpected needs."
Reader retiredtaxmgr also shared a tax lesson he or she learned the hard way: "I had kept investing in a balanced fund inside a taxable account. I ended up paying income taxes for the high amount of dividends and capital gain distributions. I should have invested the fund inside a tax-deferred account to defer taxes. Or, instead of investing in a balanced fund, I could have put some in a bond fund inside a tax-deferred account and the rest in an equity fund inside a taxable account."
For patleon2, frequent trading led to an unwelcome tax surprise.

"A few years after I retired I subscribed to a service that recommended profitable trades without the hassle of my having to sift through a lot of research," the commenter wrote. "And profitable it was. Short-term gains resulted in a huge tax bill that year. I unsubscribed soon after that!"

Another tax problem that can trip up investors involves the alternative minimum tax, in which investment income can reduce the taxpayer's exemption and, thus, lead to a higher overall tax bill (for a fuller explanation, see "Is the AMT Costing Me More in Capital Gains Taxes?").

Just ask Uysses.

"One big personal mistake was selling a large block of very appreciated employer stock and paying more taxes than planned due to the capital gain being affected by the alternative minimum tax, which I didn't realize was the case," the commenter wrote.
Margaret17 said the problem was her decision to let an advisor make trades for her that led to "enormous capital gains when the tech bubble hit. I blame myself because I knew I needed to sell but lacked confidence in myself. My financial education started right after that. No matter what the blunder or how painful it was, if we can learn something from it, then there is something worthwhile about it."

Others cited errors in the timing of an investment sale. In the case of meddguy, it was being overly tax-conscious that proved costly.

"I bought this stock and held it for about 11 months," he said. "I had about an 80% profit. So, I decided to sell but just wait one more month so it would be long-term capital gains. As I am sure you guessed, the stock took a dive, and by the end of the month I barely had a 15% gain."
Then, there are those times when doing what seems to be the right thing turns out wrong, as in the case of Linehan, who wrote, "My wife was pressuring me to pay off our mortgage so I took the money out of my 401(k) to do it. The taxes on the withdrawal and loss of [the mortgage interest] tax write-off wiped out any savings of paying off the loan."

Bond-Related Blunders
Even with the variety of tax woes shared by readers, a few common themes were evident. One was the danger of holding bonds in a taxable account.

"I bought EE- and I-bonds and just left them sit," recalled valou. "Now that they are about to mature I really have a tax problem. Those $500 bonds are worth over $1,500. I've made other blunders, but those bonds are on my mind right now."

Reader chart tried to use tax-free municipal bonds to reduce his or her tax bill, but things didn't turn out as planned. 

"I sold taxable-bond funds and stock funds in 2012 to create a muni-bond account of single-state bonds to generate tax-exempt earnings instead of taxable earnings," chart wrote. "I did not realize how much taxable capital gains were involved in the sales. As a result, I pushed our taxable income so high that year that my wife and I each got hit with the Medicare surcharge. ... That cost us $1,008 [in] additional Medicare premiums in 2013. Additionally, the gains pushed us into a higher tax bracket in 2012. Plus, the higher income made us ineligible for the state income deduction for seniors on our 2012 state tax return. A better approach would have been to split the mutual fund sales into two tax years."

Conversion Chaos
But perhaps the most common tax error cited by readers involved converting assets from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

For example, ShakAttack said that in his or her case, waiting to do so was a mistake. "Instead of doing it all at once as soon as it became permissible, I did it a bit at a time hoping for a [market] correction to reduce the cost. Unfortunately, markets rallied, and I ended up paying a lot more in taxes than I needed to," ShakAttack said.
For dorkmeyer, a recent Roth IRA conversation has turned into a tax disaster because of some unforeseen investment income. 

"I converted Traditional IRA money to a Roth IRA in an amount that I expected would keep my total taxable income within the 15% tax bracket on the assumption that the amount of the year-end annual capital gains distribution for one of my mutual funds would be approximately the same in 2014 as it had been in each of the preceding two years," dorkmeyer said. "Proving that what they say about the word 'assume' is true, the 1099 that I received from that mutual fund a couple of weeks ago stunned me with the info that the fund's capital gains distribution for 2014 was nearly four times as much as it had been in each of the two preceding years, rocketing my total taxable income well into the 25% tax bracket. For this fool and his money, the expensive lesson learned is that, in future such situations, I should call the mutual fund near year's end to get some idea of what its annual capital gains distribution is likely to be." 

Then, there was Hyrground, who missed an opportunity to convert assets to a Roth altogether. 

"After reading several sources which indicated contributions to Roth IRAs were permitted until the tax deadline in the following year (e.g. April 15, 2014, for contribution year 2013), I held off doing a sizable conversion to a Roth until after Jan. 1. Unfortunately, I learned too late that that rule only applies to new contributions, not conversions--so I missed the window for that contribution year and could not do the conversion at all," the commenter said.
(For a broader discussion of Roth and other IRA mistakes, read "20 IRA Mistakes to Avoid" by Christine Benz, Morningstar's director of personal finance.)

When the Unexpected Happens
Another common theme among readers' tax mistakes was the high price of unforeseen circumstances. 

Tomas47 recalled that, "In the early 1980s, I bought several real estate master limited partnerships. Worked great until the Tax Act of 1986 changed all the rules. Income tax filing was a nightmare requiring several additional forms and waiting until the last minute for K-1s to show up. [It was] so bad I told my wife to refuse to inherit them if I died--just walk away. I eventually was able to sell them on the third-party market. Out-of-pocket cost to transfer was more than the sale price I received. Given the tax advantages of the early years, my total losses were an inexpensive education that added a couple of rules to my investing process: 1) If you don't understand it, don't buy it. 2) If it adds a new form to your tax return, proceed with extreme caution."

One reader, DCFTim, shared the story of how his mother's death led to unexpected tax problems. 

He wrote, "My mother died suddenly last year from complications related to Alzheimer's. I was managing her affairs when she was alive. Early in the year, several price targets were hit, which triggered the sale of certain holdings. I was expecting that her medical expenses would greatly reduce her taxable income, and I was planning to do further tax mitigation within the portfolio as necessary. Because of her mid-year death, though, things did not go according to that plan."

A couple of commenters mentioned that they thought they'd pursued smart federal income tax approaches with their portfolios but had failed to consider one thing: state income tax.
"The worst blunder was not learning about California tax rules until I'd lived there for 10 years," wrote artsdoc. "Everyone spends so much time learning about federal tax rules, but when you're living in a high-tax state, it's worth the time to learn about state tax rules."

FingerlakesGuy told a similar tale, but with a twist.
"My worst investment-related tax blunder? Selling highly appreciated funds in a year that my income was down to avoid federal taxes," he said. "Mission accomplished. Unfortunately I forgot to consider state taxes, so I took a sizable state tax hit. Luckily all was not lost. I repurchased the same funds at a lower cost basis, so in actuality I didn't really lose anything in the long run. It was just a surprise I wasn't expecting, but in the end, the taxes should end up the same or lower."

Given the results of some other readers' tax stories, that qualifies as a happy ending.
Posted on 5:27 AM | Categories:

Xero shares climb 24% in a week as seller leaves the market

Suze Metherell for writes: Shares of Xero [NZX: XRO], the cloud-based accounting software firm, have jumped 24 percent over the past week, amid market speculation a large seller has left the market.

The stock climbed as much as $4 to an intraday high of $20.40, the highest since October, from last Monday's closing price of $16.40. The stock recently traded at $20.00.

The Wellington-based firm's stock came under selling pressure last year, falling from a high of $45.99 in March to as low as $15 last October as investors mulled the outlook for growth, particularly in the US, while the escrow period for its 2013 capital raising, which saw it book $180 million from investors, came to an end.

Last week's sudden climb in the share price saw the stock market operator and regulator issue a 'please explain' notice to the company, asking Xero to confirm it was disclosing all material information which might be behind the gain. The tech firm confirmed it was, without issuing any further explanation to the gain in its shares.

Market sources told BusinessDesk they thought a large seller had exited the stock, removing any downwards pressure on its price.

"As far as I know it is mainly the selling has dried up, there was one large seller in the market place and he is pretty much gone," said Grant Williamson, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "The buyers are definitely back in control of the stock at the moment."

The appetite for Xero has flowed through to other tech-based companies, Williamson said. Diligent Board Member Services, the governance app developer, has gained 11 percent over the past month, and recently traded at $6.10, coming off from the highest level it had been since July 2013. Outside the benchmark index, Finzsoft Solutions, the software developer under a takeover attempt by its managing director and major shareholder, has gained 19 percent over the past month, and recently traded at $3.80.

"They're following on the back of Xero," Williamson said. "There has been renewed interest in all of those types of stocks and that's getting all the prices trading higher. Although the stocks that pay high dividends have done extremely well, investors are also looking to add a bit of growth to their portfolios as well."
Posted on 4:14 AM | Categories:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tax Software vs Professional Accountants

McRuer CPAs writes:  As we enter into the peak of tax preparation season, we are often asked about the difference between using tax preparation software and using the services of a professional accountant.  Today there are dozens of preparation software options online and in software packages that can help a taxpayer complete their tax return.  This as today's tax liabilities and concerns are growing more complicated than they've ever been. 

A recent Wall Street Journal article revealed as taxpayers try out new tax software tools, they are making more and more mistakes.  Often, it has to do with not knowing the right questions to ask to discover their best options.  Many times, incorrectly entered numbers cause automatic equations to produce the wrong totals.  

Don't misunderstand, there are good reasons to choose tax software to help you complete your income tax return on your own.  There are also good reasons to choose a professional accountant.  We came across an interesting and concise article online on Investopedia that explains your options clearly.

Here is that article for your consideration as you choose the best steps to take regarding the preparation of your federal and state income tax returns. 

Tax Software Vs. An Accountant: Which Is Right For You?    By Jason Steele | Updated January 29, 2014
""With every important job comes the question of whether or not individuals should do it themselves or hire a professional. While the ever-improving selection of tax preparation software certainly makes it easier to do your own taxes, it has hardly put Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and other personal tax preparers out of business. 

The Advantages of Using Tax Software Price
There is no way around the fact that you will pay less for a software package than you will to hire a CPA or another qualified tax professional. The price of tax preparation software ranges from the $10 to $120 range to websites that offer the service for free. On the other hand, the least expensive tax preparers will cost at least $100 and a CPA is likely to charge at least twice that amount. The upfront savings of using tax software over an accountant is one of the most attractive benefits of filing your own taxes. 

The Advantages of Using Tax Software Price
There is no way around the fact that you will pay less for a software package than you will to hire a CPA or another qualified tax professional. The price of tax preparation software ranges from the $10 to $120 range to websites that offer the service for free. On the other hand, the least expensive tax preparers will cost at least $100 and a CPA is likely to charge at least twice that amount. The upfront savings of using tax software over an accountant is one of the most attractive benefits of filing your own taxes. 

The Benefits of Hiring a Professional Accountant Better Software
Accountants pay around $1,000 to $6,000 for their software, which is far more sophisticated than the products sold to consumers. These more advanced programs have the ability to quickly scan your information and organize line items and forms correctly. By automating much of the data entry and organization, there's less chance for human error to hurt your tax return.

Human Touch
Like a good family doctor that knows your medical history, you can develop a relationship with an accountant so that he or she understands your family's financial situation and future goals. According to Wehner, who has been preparing taxes for 45 years, "A tax professional is often able to make valuable tax savings suggestions that a software program just can't anticipate." The value of this advice can easily exceed the additional cost of consulting with a professional. For example, a tax accountant can provide you advice on tax-friendly ways to save for your children's education, or how to reduce taxes on your capital gains.

Accountants Can Answer Your Questions Year Round
As a trusted professional, a good accountant will be able to answer important questions that arise not just during your annual consultation, but at other times during the year.

A CPA Saves You Time When Handling Complicated Issues
Taxpayers who find themselves at the center of complicated business and investment matters may even have the skill to sort through their taxes on their own, but is it worth their time? A professional tax preparer is so familiar with the system; he or she can quickly and easily accomplish tasks that might take even skilled taxpayers hours of research. For busy non-tax professionals, their time can generally be better spent earning money in their area of expertise. Even if your tax situation is straightforward, hiring a professional will save you the time and stress of doing your taxes.

The Bottom Line
Ultimately, there is no universally correct answer to the question of hiring a tax professional or doing your taxes yourself with software. Your comfort and familiarity with IRS rules will be part of your decision, but the complexity of your finances should be the key deciding factor. Those with a single employer and few investments may save hundreds of dollars by preparing their own taxes, while those with business income or rental properties will find the expense of hiring an accountant to be worth their peace of mind and potential tax saving.""
Posted on 6:55 AM | Categories:

Tax deductions for Self-Employed and Freelancers

Ron Friedman for writes: Taxes for the self-employed and freelance worker can get pretty complicated. For those in this segment of the economy often combine their personal and business lives and, as a result, reporting to Uncle Sam can get pretty complicated. Freelancers usually work out of their own home, use their own car to get to and from sales calls and don’t have a separate bank account to conduct their business affairs.

Whether you prepare your own taxes or have someone prepare them for you, it’s still a good idea to know what deductions you might be entitled to. The following is a list of common tax deductions for those in their own business. Every profession and industry may have its own unique characteristics; here’s a general list of what is available to most:

Home Office: In order to qualify for the home office deduction, you must have a dedicated space devoted to your business and absolutely nothing else. Deducting the den in your house that contains the family computer and serves as a guest bedroom is an invitation for trouble. The deduction is calculated by the amount of square footage devoted to your office divided by the total square footage of your home. That fraction is applied to the costs of running your home will be the basis for your home office deduction.

Automobile: The deduction for use of your automobile is the greater of the actual costs of owning and maintaining it compared to the standard mileage rate the Internal Revenue Service publishes every year — 56 cents per mile for 2014. Actual expenses may include lease or loan payments, registration fees, insurance, gas, maintenance, repairs, garage fees and depreciation. The caveat here is that the only deductible portion of the costs are those associated with the business use of the automobile. It is advisable to maintain a car log or diary, to distinguish business miles from personal miles.

Meals and Entertainment: The rules regarding meals and entertainment can get fairly complicated, however, here are some guidelines to determine if the expense qualifies:
1)    The expenses has to be an ordinary and necessary expense that is common in your industry/profession and is helpful and appropriate to your business.
2)    The expense has to be directly related to your business, meaning it occurred in a business setting, or the primary goal was to do business or for a particular business outcome. It does NOT have to result in business transacted.

Equipment: Normally business equipment (phone systems, computers, furniture, copiers, scanners, etc.) is tax deductible (depreciable) over the useful life of the equipment. The IRS publishes tables covering all kinds of equipment and their related tax lives. However, one of the nuances in the tax code allows for 100% depreciation in the year of acquisition.

Retirement Contributions: While not directly a cost of business, the tax code allows those self-employed and freelance workers the ability to lower their tax bill by contributing to a retirement account. Whether one utilizes an IRA, SEP or KEOGH plan, those contributions can lower your overall tax bill.

Health insurance: Premiums paid for health insurance by freelancers are deductible. In fact, for those who are collecting Social Security while freelancing, your premiums paid for Medicare coverage are also deductible.

Insurance (other than health): Premiums paid for business insurance (general liability, errors and omission, malpractice, worker’s compensation, etc.) are deductible.

Advertising: Any expenditure for advertising and promotion of your business would fit into this category, including digital advertisements, business cards, promotional items, brochures, etc.

Fees and commissions: If your state or county requires you to carry a license or business certificate to do business, this is the place to deduct those expenditures.

Contract labor: This includes all the independent contractors and freelancers you hired to conduct your business and is separate from anyone whom you treated as an employee. It includes the computer consultant you hired to set up your network, or any subcontractors you used to create a final product.

Wages: If you hire someone in your business (assistant, administrator, etc.) even temporarily, you can deduct not only the wages you paid but also, the related payroll employment costs (employers’ share of Social Security and Medicare, Federal and State Unemployment Insurance, etc.).

Interest: If you borrowed money to start or expand your business, the interest you paid during the year is fully deductible.

Legal and professional services: Fees to lawyers and accountants used to initiate or continue a business are deductible, including bookkeeping and tax preparation.

The most important part of managing the financial operations of your business should be planning. Tax planning should be part of that. One of the key short term strategies employed is knowing when and how much to pay for your quarterly estimated taxes. It will go a long way to avoiding surprises come tax day and more importantly, penalties and interest to the government. Once you’ve gotten your business off the ground, you should talk to your accountant about ways to maximize cash flows and minimize taxes from year to year. Sole proprietorships are the most common business organization form for the self-employed, however, there are other corporate structures a freelancer can adopt and gain significant tax and legal advantages.
Posted on 6:53 AM | Categories:

5 Robust Accounting Software Systems Fit For Your Business / Quickbooks, WorkFlowMax, Financial Force, FreeAgent, Kashflow

Finances Online writes: Small businesses usually start with manual accounting systems and then add programs such as QuickBooks or Microsoft Excel as their business expenses become harder to monitor. However, it is always best to plan ahead of time. Your organization’s accounting software system must be able to handle your current needs and quickly adapt to future growth.
Look for a robust system that can quickly grow along with your business. The system you select should well integrate with many of the business processes your businesses uses to save time and reduce data entry errors.

Data storage

When selecting a software-based accounting system, you have to make sure the system would encrypt your confidential financial information. That software system should also have the capacity to schedule backups so important information cannot be simply lost during a computer crash. Consider your organization’s physical storage needs, such as having file cabinets to lock up confidential documents and fireproof cabinets so you can have software backups. You can likewise store a copy of a recent data backup off-site that you can retrieve in case there is a catastrophic event that happened at your main office. However, you should also sure the location not too far away to get if you need to swiftly restore the information.


Detailed accounting reports can help your managers make better informed decisions. For instance, printing a daily cash report can help you decide when to switch funds to your company checking account to handle payroll checks or even bill payments. Make sure the accounting system has the capacity to generate an entire package of financial statements including an income statement, balance sheet, cash flows statement as well as statement of owner’s equity. In addition, you may want to generate customized reports using the rich information located in your software’s database, such as cost of goods sold, inventory reports, accounts receivable aging, budget variance reports, open accounts payable for your company’s cash flow management, as well as tax reports for the CPA.

Internal Controls

For security purposes, the accounting system you should be getting should offer the choice of limiting permissions by user. The same user should not be allowed to handle deposits as well as reconcile bank accounts. If the system has the capacity to print the person’s initials or provide identification number on reports, this information can be used when auditing incorrect transactions. Your company’s supervisors should be able to have hard copies of reports to ensure the work of their employees. The organization should also have a process for checking out unusual journal entries as well as keep documentation in the accounting files.


The usefulness of an accounting software system would mainly depend on the data accuracy it contains. Start by getting professionals whom you trust to provide the information perfectly the first time. Do not try to save money by shortchanging your data entry personnel because you think any person can do the job correctly. Saving money by giving low wages may even cost much more in terms of accounting fees especially if you need to correct financial statements. Periodic review by your company’s supervisors can also catch various errors before they can have an effect in your company’s period-end closing numbers.
Do you have a B2B product you’d like to add to our listing?
If you are a vendor and have an interesting B2B product that hasn’t yet been listed on our review platform feel free to let us know about it. You can add your product to the listing here. Our experts will be happy to preapre a detailed review of your product free of charge. Here’s an example of accounting software review by us.
Here are five robust accounting software systems and their solutions.

1. Quickbooks Pro

QuickBooks Pro is established on the simplicity as well as popularity of Intuit’s QuickBooks, which is regarded as the entry-level software system for many small businesses. It brings additional features to the table, specifically by enabling business accounting to become easier by providing windows you use to track common business transactions, including invoices, check writing, and purchase orders. It integrates with a number of third-party products, scalable, and expandable.
QuickBooks Pro SmartScore and Customer Satisfaction
Our B2B experts reviewed QuickBooks Pro features, user experience, customer support and other key elements of the service. Final results as summarized by the SmartScore system gave QuickBooks Pro a score of 9.0/10 while the results provided by the Customer Satisfaction Algorithm place the overall user satisfaction rating at 98%.

2. WorkflowMax

WorkflowMax is a project management solution that has been built to handle all your business management needs, which includes project tracking, invoicing, job monitoring, timesheets, reporting, and all various aspects of project management. It flaunts a seamless integration with Xero’s business software as well as systems, including Xero Accounting software.
It is a wide set of project management tools that works perfectly with companies from different industries. It has an extensive list of applications designed to boost the potential of any enterprise.
WorkflowMax SmartScore and Customer Satisfaction
Our B2B experts reviewed WorkflowMax functionalities, user experience, customer support and other key elements of the service. Final results as summarized by the SmartScore system gave WorkflowMax a score of 7.3/10 while the results provided by the Customer Satisfaction Algorithm place the overall user satisfaction rating at 100%.

3. FinancialForce Accounting

Financial Force Accounting
FinancialForce Accounting for Salesforce is quite easy to learn, use, as well as maintain. It is a simple yet powerful cloud accounting system. FinancialForce provides an an end-to-end solution that is ideal for small and large sales as well as service-oriented companies that are looking for ways to make their business operations more effective at less cost.
It has the Salesforce Accounting app, leveraging the power as well as the flexibility of the efficient cloud platform. FinancialForce Accounting also integrates with Salesforce CRM to enable your employees to work as one team.
FinancialForce Accounting SmartScore and Customer Satisfaction
Our B2B experts prepared a detailed review of FinancialForce describing its features user experience, customer support and other key elements of the service. Final results as summarized by the SmartScore system gave FinancialForce Accounting a score of 6.7/10 while the results provided by the Customer Satisfaction Algorithm place the overall user satisfaction rating at 98%.

4. FreeAgent

FreeAgent is a web-based accounting and financial management tool that is well suited for those thatve small businesses and with up to 10 employees. Whether you are new to the business or are already successful in your business, this system is for you.
FreeAgent was created to respond to the difficulties of handling financial matters for those with small businesses as well as freelancers. It is currently being used by over 35,000 small businesses as well as freelancers in up to 80 countries who realized the tool is an easy and efficient method to handle their books and invoicing.
All your system data is backed up a lot of times every hour to the company’s secure server.
FreeAgent SmartScore and Customer Satisfaction
Our B2B experts made a full review of FreeAgent listing its features, user experience, customer support and other key elements of the service. Final results as summarized by the SmartScore system gave FreeAgent a score of 6.7/10 while the results provided by the Customer Satisfaction Algorithm place the overall user satisfaction rating at 98%.

5. KashFlow

Considered the top accounting and bookkeeping software solution in the United Kingdom, this tool has been giving topnotch online accounting software platforms for small business companies since 2005.
KashFlow is a top, cloud-based, and user-friendly accounting software solution designed to help small business owners really make sense of their business accounts. However, it has options for various businesses, full of automated features and well integrated with add-ons such as DropBox, PayPal, and many more.
KashFlow clients can generate quotes quickly, produce invoices that are fully customizable invoices, balance books, and check out their expenses.
KashFlow SmartScore and Customer Satisfaction
Our B2B experts reviewed KashFlow accounting software detailing its features, user experience, customer support and other key elements of the service. Final results as summarized by the SmartScore system gave KashFlow a score of 7.0/10 while the results provided by the Customer Satisfaction Algorithm place the overall user satisfaction rating at 93%.
Posted on 6:50 AM | Categories:

QuickBooks Online Alternatives: Why SMBs Should Embrace Cloud ERP Accounting

Marie Alonso for CompuData writes:  If you are looking for QuickBooks online alternatives and think the best direction for your business may be Cloud ERP, you just may be right. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions that deliver cloud-based functionality are ideal for small to mid-sized businesses looking to better automate and organize management processes – including financial management.

In fact, cloud-based ERP is an escalating trend. According to Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company, by 2018 at least 30 percent of service-centric companies will move the majority of their ERP applications to the cloud. The concept of a single ERP suite that meets all of an enterprise’s needs is incrementally being replaced by a hybrid ERP approach that combines cloud point solutions with on-premises ERP functions – like financial management.

Gartner predicts these hybrid ERP environments will be the norm within five years – as more and more small to mid-sized businesses take cloud ERP mainstream. Longer term, over the next 10 years and more, Gartner envisions a scenario where more of the market converts to the cloud.

Today, many enterprises of all sizes have already moved key elements of application functionality to the cloud, including accounting processes. Who are these cloud adopters? In some cases, they are companies that have outgrown QuickBooks and turned to QuickBooks online alternatives for better control, tracking and governance over their financial management.

Why Cloud ERP?

There are many reasons small and medium-sized businesses, specifically, should turn to cloud ERP to leverage an effective QuickBooks alternative.
Real-Time Productivity Gains: By automating key accounting processes and breaking away from the elements of QuickBooks that present time-consuming manual tasks, businesses streamline financial and operational tracking and management – eliminating wasted time, human errors and the dreaded reality of duplication.

Real-Time Visibility, Too! With cloud-based ERP solutions, business leaders and financial managers can view real-time data to delve into financial and operational performance. This level of real-time data scrutiny and sophistication presents 24/7 overview for enterprises – keeping businesses more informed than ever as accounting information is literally at their fingertips thanks to any mobile device.

Cloud Accounting = Cash Flow: Did you know a recent study shows that business owners who invoice and accept online payments through cloud accounting tools get paid nearly two weeks faster? Automating invoicing improves cash flow and saves time by eliminating the need to follow up on overdue invoices. Cloud-ERP solutions provide simple, easy, on-the-go financial management tools with 24/7 access – and the ability to reach your customers wherever they are to keep payments on schedule.

24/7 Cloud Collaboration – Your Time Is Your Money. With cloud-based ERP solutions delivering financial management 24/7, the traditional and time-delayed back-and-forth document pushing and file sharing between colleagues during an average business day is no more. With financial management tools in the cloud, accounting professionals and financial management team members can collaborate on financial reports in real time and review up-to-date data. Plus, with cloud-accounting, small business owners still holding the reigns over all accounting tasks can get organized and stay organized 24/7 – giving them more time to run their businesses. [end]

Who is CompuData? A Different Kind of Technology Company

We believe that better technology solutions mean better business.  CompuData specializes in providing business software and technology solutions that is customer and solution oriented. CompuData offers a vast spectrum of IT solutions not limited to the areas of accounting, distribution, manufacturing, customer relationship management (CRM), hardware and data storage, systems integrations, network management, security, and cloud services. And with over 40 years of technology and customer satisfaction obsession, we have learned a thing or two about delivering technology solutions that provide scalability and ways to increase profitability.

Posted on 5:51 AM | Categories:

Six Audit Red Flags and How to Avoid Them

Who is Bench?  "We’re a laid back group of people working hard on a tough problem. Bookkeeping is a universal point of pain for entrepreneurs, and we’re changing that." - Bench, visit Bench by clicking here.

Lindsay Angus for Bench writes: Being the subject of an IRS audit can be stressful, time-consuming, and potentially very expensive. While there is no foolproof way to avoid an audit, there are measures you can take to drastically reduce your chances of showing up on the IRS radar. Here are six measures that you can incorporate into your business habits today to lower your chances of receiving an unwelcome visit from the IRS:

Account For All of Your Income

Are you currently a small business owner but also doing some consulting on the side? If so, be sure to accurately report all of the money you are bringing in across your different income streams.The IRS uses the information on Forms W-2, 1098, and 1099 to compare the income and deductions you report on your return with the information reported by others, such as employers, banks, and businesses. Any discrepancies between reported income amounts is an obvious red flag for the IRS and will likely provoke further investigation.

Double Check Your Return

Making a careless error on your tax return is the easiest way to guarantee yourself a visit from the tax man. In the event of any omission, miscalculation, or error on your return, the IRS is obligated to further investigate your case. Accordingly, you can greatly reduce your chances of an audit by ensuring that all sections are correctly signed, sealed, and delivered. For business returns, acquiring outside help may be a good choice.

Maintain Organized Records

Keeping organized records makes for a much smoother tax season, reduces your chances of receiving an audit, and helps you substantiate your claims in the event that you are audited. One distinction that the IRS upholds is the difference between a hobby and a business. Sometimes referred to as the ‘hobby-loss rule,’ the IRS states that if you have an activity that is not designated as a business, then the “allowable deductions cannot exceed the gross receipts for the activity.” Keeping accurate books and using financial records to improve your profit margin will help convince the IRS that you are running a legitimate business and not a claiming deductions on a hobby. Also, if you do get audited in the future, you will have unflappable records to prove where the money was coming from and going to.

Separate Your Personal and Business Expenses

The IRS is very strict about business owners keeping personal and professional expenses separate. They define a business expense as something that is “both ordinary and necessary.” Some expenses can be hard to differentiate on a receipt or bank statement, but having an account or card that is solely used for your business, as well as keeping thorough notes of why this purchase benefited your business, will make an audit less likely and also safeguard you if you’re audited in the future.

Stay Consistent with Your Accounting Methods

As a business owner, you have the choice of two different accounting methods: cash or accrual accounting. Bouncing back and forth between the two can be seen as potentially deceitful and will likely incite further investigation. Whatever method you deem best for your business, just be sure to stay consistent; failing to do so will attract the IRS to your return and potentially make you the subject of an unwanted audit. Learn more about cash vs. accrual accounting here.

Keep it Straight - Employee or Contractor

Properly classifying workers is crucial because it determines the taxes that need to be paid, when they are paid, and who pays them. Generally, for an employee you must withhold income taxes and pay unemployment, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. With an independent contractor, you generally don’t need to withhold or pay taxes on their paychecks. The IRS is on the lookout for businesses who intentionally miscategorize employees (therefore skipping the taxes). If you frequently work with full-time independent contractors, be sure that they really are contractors and not employees. If you’re not sure whether you are working with an employee or an independent contractor, learn more about How to classify your team.

No one wants to be questioned by the IRS, but running an organized, professional, and informed business will reduce your chances of being audited, as well as prepare you if one does come along. Having a team of bookkeepers and accountants in your corner doesn’t hurt either, and at Bench, we’re always there for you.
Posted on 5:33 AM | Categories:

Friday, February 20, 2015

vTiger (CRM) and Xero on Maestrano is a winning combination for your business....

Maestrano  is an advanced cloud computing service that brings together the best software solutions for small to medium business, at very low cost and carefully selected for quality and ease of use.
Maestrano features unique technology that enables different software applications to share information, to connect different clouds and to bring desktop or "offline" software into the cloud.

Over at the Maestrano blog we read the following:  How do you decide what business applications are best for your business?

A good way to start is to always see what your peers/competitors are using. But that doesn’t necessarily mean those solutions are the best. So you need to really know your business, where it’s heading and how you want to get there. From here, you can evaluate different applications and see which one is going to give you the tools you need to achieve your strategic goals and vision.

One business that has nailed this is Sunshine Coast Destination Limited.


Sunshine Coast Destination Limited is a not-for-profit, membership based, destination marketing body that aims to develop and manage tourism for the benefit of visitors and the local community. It is the official tourism organization for the Sunshine Coast.

As a membership based organization Sunshine Coast Destination Limited needed a solution that would help them gain a better understanding of their current membership, run detailed reports and ultimately add greater value to their members.

They were already using Xero, a beautifully designed accounting software tailored for Small and Medium Businesses. They loved Xero as it was simple, intuitive and at the end of the day it worked. They could conduct all their financial activities in Xero. The only problem was that it didn’t connect with their existing membership system.

The other problem was that their existing membership system didn’t work that well either.
This is how they found Maestrano. Sunshine Coast Destination Limited, wanted to find a solution that integrated with their existing Xero system. On Maestrano, through our patented technology Connec!™ we are able to seamlessly connect any application together. This means any Connec!™ ready application on Maestrano will share data with Xero.connec-data-shared-Xero-app-icons
After consulting with our team, various demo’s and a free trial, Sunshine Coast Destination Limited decided that the best application to help their business was vTiger. A powerful and highly customisable CRM tool. Already offering many features out of the box including full salesforce automation, reporting, permissions and thanks to Maestrano’s Connec!™ seamless and free integration with Xero.

Once vTiger and Xero were being run on Maestrano, instantly all the data from Xero was synchronized with vTiger! This simple one click process just saved hours if not a week of data entry!

Now whenever a new lead is converted into a member, they will also appear in Xero. Whenever an invoice is sent through Xero, that record will also be available in vTiger instantly! If a member changes their address and it’s updated in vTiger instantly it will update in Xero. This means that across the entire organization, Sunshine Coast Destination Limited, will always have the most up to date data available at their disposal.

Now there is lime time, effort and money being spent on administrative tasks such as data management and more time to spent on value added activities!

So if you’re a membership based organization, be sure that using vTiger and Xero on Maestrano is a winning combination for your business!
Posted on 10:24 AM | Categories: