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Library name change


According to the Kent District Library, the branch located at 88 Eighth Street, in Sand Lake, will now be known as the Nelson Township/Sand Lake Branch of the Kent District Library, instead of the Sand Lake/Nelson Township branch.

Craig Buno, Branch Manager for the Nelson Township/Sand Lake branch, said that the name change is to create consistency. “When I first started here in June, I noticed that the sign outside says Nelson Township / Sand Lake Branch, along with several other signs throughout the building that were purchased when the building was built,” explained Buno. “In order to create consistency, KDL had to update many of its publications and notices.”

They also have new hours: Monday and Wednesday 12-8 p.m.; Tuesday and Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Friday 1 to 5 p.m.

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Ask Score


By Ernie Birge, SCORE Counselor

SCORE: Your Gateway to Business Success

SCORE is here to help entrepreneurs, and owners of small to medium-sized businesses be more successful.  SCORE provides free business mentoring through more than 40 experienced individuals in our Grand Rapids Chapter. These volunteers offer more than 400 years of business management experience in many different areas.

If you have a vision of a new business you want to start, contact us and let us mentor you through the process of establishing a formal plan for your business. We’ll show you how to plan your startup. We’ll help you analyze the competition you will face and learn how to show your potential customers why they should do business with you. Your SCORE mentor will help you determine the financial resources you will need to have available, as you get ready to open your doors for business.

If you have an established business and you feel “challenged” in these challenging times, contact us and let one or more SCORE mentors review your business to help you shape a plan to grow your business.  Your mentors will help you form a financial plan, look at your marketing activities, or simply listen to you and serve as a sounding board to give you a support system that helps you lead your business. SCORE advisors can assemble a mentoring team with experts from different specialty areas to help you get advice in areas such as finance, marketing, human resources and management.

You can meet with SCORE just once or on a long-term basis. If you have a simple business question or just want an explanation of how a cash flow statement works, SCORE can provide you with answers. However, you really get the best value from SCORE if you set up a series of confidential meetings to talk about a business problem or opportunity.

There are many factors that support your success in your business: a focused business plan, hard work, quality products and services—just to name a few.

Another contributing factor to small business success is good advice. I encourage every entrepreneur that I talk with to seek out advisors. Note that I say mentors, not necessarily a single mentor. Small business owners benefit from having access to numerous perspectives. The effective leader then takes these insights and distills the ideas and advice into what is right for his or her business.

Small businesses represent economic prosperity in America and here in Western Michigan. The success of small business is important to you as a business owner, to your employees and to this community.

Get free and confidential counseling with SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Call (616) 771-0305. Visit www.scoregr.org or email score@grandrapids.org.

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IRS scams and tax-related ID theft 


IRS will never ask for taxpayers’ personal information by phone or in e-mails

Anybody contacting you claiming to be from the IRS and asking you for personal identifying information is a crook. Every year the IRS issues warnings about rebate or other scams being perpetrated by con artists claiming to work for the agency. The goal of these crooks is to commit identity theft, take control of personal computers, or simply duping people out of cash. IRS scams enable con artists to get bank account information, Social Security numbers, or credit and debit card details that are then used to commit identity theft.

IRS e-mail scams

E-mail continues to be the method of choice for IRS scams. Common e-mail tricks used by these crooks include using:

• the official IRS logo,

• whole sections of text from the IRS’s website,

• a fake “from” address (reported Michigan variations include irs@getrefundnow.com, support@irs.gov, service@irs.jg.gov, tax-refunds@irs.gov and other variations on the irs.gov theme),

• forms with numbers similar to those the IRS already uses, often with a jumble of numbers and letters.

Don’t fall for any e-mail scams! The IRS never initiates e-mails to taxpayers!

Michigan Attorney General Consumer Alerts are available at http://www.mi.gov/ag. Toll free 1-877-765-8388.

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Tax tips for the self-employed


Many people who carry on a trade or business are self-employed. Sole proprietors and independent contractors are two examples of self-employment. If this applies to you, there are a few basic things you should know about how your income affects your federal tax return. Here are six important tips about income from self-employment:

SE Income.  Self-employment can include income you received for part-time work. This is in addition to income from your regular job.

Schedule C or C-EZ.  There are two forms to report self-employment income. You must file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040. You may use Schedule C-EZ if you had expenses less than $5,000 and meet other conditions. See the form instructions to find out if you can use the form.

SE Tax.  You may have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax if you made a profit. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes. Use Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax, to figure the tax. If you owe this tax, make sure you file the schedule with your federal tax return.

Estimated Tax.  You may need to make estimated tax payments. People typically make these payments on income that is not subject to withholding. You usually pay this tax in four installments for each year. If you do not pay enough tax throughout the year, you may owe a penalty.

Allowable Deductions.  You can deduct expenses you paid to run your business that are both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and proper for your trade or business.

When to Deduct.  In most cases, you can deduct expenses in the same year you paid for them, or incurred them. However, you must ‘capitalize’ some costs. This means you can deduct part of the cost over a number of years.

Visit the Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center on IRS.gov for all your federal tax needs. You can also get IRS tax forms on IRS.gov/forms anytime.

Additional IRS Resources:

Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals

Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax

Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business

Publication 535, Business Expenses

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Five key facts about unemployment benefits


IRS Tax Tip 2014-30 

If you lose your job, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. The payments may serve as much needed relief. But did you know unemployment benefits are taxable? Here are five key facts about unemployment compensation:

1. Unemployment is taxable.  

You must include all unemployment compensation as income for the year. You should receive a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments by Jan. 31 of the following year. This form will show the amount paid to you and the amount of any federal income tax withheld.

2. Paid under U.S. or state law.  

There are various types of unemployment compensation. Unemployment includes amounts paid under U.S. or state unemployment compensation laws. For more information, see Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income.

3. Union benefits may be taxable.  

You must include benefits paid to you from regular union dues in your income. Other rules may apply if you contributed to a special union fund and those contributions are not deductible. In that case, you only include as income any amount that you got that was more than the contributions you made.

4. You may have tax withheld.  

You can choose to have federal income tax withheld from your unemployment. You can have this done using Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. If you choose not to have tax withheld, you may need to make estimated tax payments during the year.

5. Visit IRS.gov for help.  

If you’re facing financial difficulties, you should visit the IRS.gov page: “What Ifs” for Struggling Taxpayers. This page explains the tax effect of events such as job loss. For example, if your income decreased, you may be eligible for certain tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you owe federal taxes and can’t pay your bill, contact the IRS. In many cases, the IRS can take steps to help ease your financial burden.

For more details visit IRS.gov and check Publication 525. You can view, download and print Form W-4V at IRS.gov/forms anytime.

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Five tips to save money and time 

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Monkey Business – Fotolia.com

(StatePoint) There are two things most small business owners have in common: limited time and limited finances. If you’re an entrepreneur, finding ways to make the most of both is crucial for your sanity and success.

The key to becoming more efficient with these two key resources is organization, says “SmallBizLady” Melinda Emerson, small business expert and author of the bestselling book “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months.” She has teamed up with Sam’s Club to help small business owners save time, money and energy as they tackle their day-to-day tasks. Here are some of her top tips:

• Stop creating never-ending to do lists. Focus on completing only five things before 11 a.m. each day. By selecting your top priorities at the end of each day, you will become much more selective and effective with your time.

• Focus on a niche target customer. You have limited time and resources for your marketing efforts. It is best if you pick a niche target customer you can actually reach; don’t just chase any customer that you think has money. Remember, if everyone can use your product or service, no one will.

• Look for one-stop shopping for supplies and services. For example, a Sam’s Club Business Membership not only saves you money on business and restaurant supplies, it also provides members-only savings on a suite of business services that can save you time. Services include solutions for human resources, payroll, payment processing, and legal needs. Sam’s Club has joined forces with such trusted brands as First Data, LegalZoom and Execupay to provide members-only savings. You can find more information at www.SamsClub.com/services.

• Use a timer when you are on social media. Facebook and many other social media sites can be a huge time suck if you are not strategic. Focus your efforts on just one social site to build your online brand.

• Organize your files.  You can waste a lot of time looking for things on your laptop if you’re disorganized. Don’t store everything on your computer desktop. Create files by category and year, such as “2015 Contracts,” to find things quickly. You should also use a cloud storage backup system. This way, you can work from anywhere and your files will be safe if something happens to your computer.

Running a small business is a full time job and then some. If you are your own boss, take easy steps to maximize your resources and make certain tasks less time consuming.

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Mac’s Rustic Sports Shop

Rustic Sports Shop, 519 Ensley Street, in Howard City, has been in business over 50 years, and changed ownership May 1, 2014. The business is now owned by Nick and Bob MacTavish. This all around outdoor/hunting and fishing sports shop carries fishing and hunting equipment, including muck boots, bows, arrows, guns and much more. They also offer archery classes at certain times of the year, and even have an archery range upstairs for practice.

“We have a very friendly and interactive environment with our customers,” said the MacTavishes. “Customers tell us all the time, ‘You are always so helpful and informational—that’s why we keep coming back.’”

They said they intend to continue to grow the business and become the best sports shop around.

Hours are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more info, call (231) 937-4372.


Mecosta County Collision

Ted Schneider is well-known in the area as the owner of Tri County Body, since 2001. He recently opened a second business, in Morley, called Mecosta County Collision. The business, located at 505 N. Cass Street, offers full service auto collision repair for all makes and models, auto glass replacement, detailing, motorcycle repairs, towing, and free loaner autos. They also do a tintable stone guard for vehicles.

“We strive to make the customer happy at all times,” said Ted. “And we will come to your location for onsite estimates. Customers say all the time ‘you always bend over backwards for us that’s why we keep coming back!’”

Mecosta County Collision is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Call (231) 307-3101 for more information.

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IRS Can Help if W-2s Are Missing


In most cases you get your W-2 forms by the end of January. Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, shows your income and the taxes withheld from your pay for the year. You need your W-2 form to file an accurate tax return. If you haven’t received your form by mid-February, here’s what you should do:

Contact your employer.  Ask your employer (or former employer) for a copy. Be sure that they have your correct address.

After Feb. 23.  If you can’t get a copy from your employer, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 after Feb. 23. The IRS will send a letter to your employer on your behalf. You’ll need the following when you call:

Your name, address, Social Security number and phone number;

Your employer’s name, address and phone number;

The dates you worked for the employer; and

An estimate of your wages and federal income tax withheld in 2014. You can use your final pay stub for these amounts.

File on time.  Your tax return is normally due on or before April 15, 2015. Use, Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, if you don’t get your W-2 in time to file. Estimate your wages and taxes withheld as best as you can. The IRS may need more time to process your return while it verifies your information. If you can’t finish your tax return by the due date, you can ask for more time to file. Get an extra six months by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You can also e-file a request for more time. You can do this for free with IRS Free File.

Correct if necessary.  You may need to correct your tax return if you get your missing W-2 after you file. If the tax information on the W-2 is different from what you originally reported, you may need to file an amended tax return. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return to make the change.

Note: Important New Health Insurance Form. If you bought health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should have received a Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, by early February. You will need the new form to help you complete an accurate federal tax return. You will use the information from the Form 1095-A to calculate the amount of your premium tax credit. The form is also used to reconcile advance payments of the premium tax credit made on your behalf with the amount of premium tax credit that you are eligible to claim.

If you did not receive your Form 1095-A, you should contact the Marketplace from which you received coverage to get a copy. You are not required to send in proof of health care coverage, including Form 1095-A, to the IRS when filing your tax return. However, it’s a good idea to keep these records on hand to verify coverage. Additional information about Form 1095-A is available on IRS.gov/aca and on HealthCare.gov/taxes.

You can visit IRS.gov/forms to view, download or print the tax forms you need right away. To get IRS forms by mail go to IRS.gov/orderforms and place an order.

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Six tips on who should file a 2014 tax return


Most people file their tax return because they have to, but even if you don’t, there are times when you should. You may be eligible for a tax refund and not know it. This year, there are a few new rules for some who must file. Here are six tax tips to help you find out if you should file a tax return:

1. General Filing Rules.  Whether you need to file a tax return depends on a few factors. In most cases, the amount of your income, your filing status and your age determine if you must file a tax return. For example, if you’re single and 28 years old you must file if your income was at least $10,150. Other rules may apply if you’re self-employed or if you’re a dependent of another person. There are also other cases when you must file. Go to IRS.gov/filing to find out if you need to file.

2. New for 2014: Premium Tax Credit.  If you bought health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2014, you may be eligible for the new Premium Tax Credit. You will need to file a return to claim the credit. If you purchased coverage from the Marketplace in 2014 and chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit sent directly to your insurer during the year you must file a federal tax return. You will reconcile any advance payments with the allowable Premium Tax Credit. You should receive Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, by early February. The new form will have information that will help you file your tax return.

3. Tax Withheld or Paid.  Did your employer withhold federal income tax from your pay? Did you make estimated tax payments? Did you overpay last year and have it applied to this year’s tax? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you could be due a refund. But you have to file a tax return to get it.

4. Earned Income Tax Credit.  Did you work and earn less than $52,427 last year? You could receive EITC as a tax refund if you qualify with or without a qualifying child. You may be eligible for up to $6,143. Use the 2014 EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov to find out if you qualify. If you do, file a tax return to claim it.

5. Additional Child Tax Credit.  Do you have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If you don’t get the full credit amount, you may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit.

6. American Opportunity Credit.  The AOTC is available for four years of post secondary education and can be up to $2,500 per eligible student.  You or your dependent must have been a student enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period. Even if you don’t owe any taxes, you still may qualify. However, you must complete Form 8863, Education Credits, and file a return to claim the credit. Use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to see if you can claim the credit. Learn more by visiting the IRS’ Education Credits Web page.

The instructions for Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ list income tax filing requirements. You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to see if you need to file. The tool is available 24/7 to answer many tax questions.

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Make 2015 your year to improve financial fitness


Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Family Features


Lose weight, quit smoking, find a new job and get out of debt…does this sound familiar? Millions of Americans will resolve to change their lives in the New Year, but few will stick with their goals.

In fact, a recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) finds six in 10 people will strive to improve their financial well-being in 2015. Changing your financial habits is a resolution you cannot afford to overlook. It’s time to flex your financial muscle.

The experts at the nonprofit National Endowment for Financial Education offer these seven tips to help make your financial resolutions stick:

Do it now. Many will wait until they feel the time is right to begin new behaviors. If you wait until after the big party to start watching your diet, or until after that big purchase to start saving money, the ideal time will never present itself.

Write down your financial resolutions. The NEFE survey finds setting a budget, making a plan to get out of debt, and boosting retirement savings are the top priorities for Americans in the coming year. Clearly articulate why you think your resolution is a good idea, steps you can take to reach your goal, and what you hope to gain. Post your list where you will see it each day.

Identify your money morals. Understanding your values and attitudes about money will bring clarity to the decision-making process. NEFE offers various online tools, such as the LifeValues Quiz, which will help you identify your values and make resolutions based on those values. You can find the LifeValues Quiz at www.SmartAboutMoney.org.

Recruit a “financial buddy.” Share your resolutions with a trusted family member or friend who can provide support in helping you meet your financial goals. Find someone who will hold you accountable and will set a good example for you to follow.

Vary goal intensity. Give yourself a short-term objective such as paying more than the minimum on one credit card this month. A long-term goal could be setting up – and adding to – the emergency savings account you know you should have but didn’t get around to starting last year.

Monitor your progress regularly. If you are trying to reduce debt, make sure you check your balances often. Set aside a couple of hours each week to address your finances. Over time this will become second nature and part of your normal routine.

Address conflict logically. If you find yourself breaking a financial goal by reverting to old spending habits, identify what value might be causing you to stray and take the time to ask yourself if the decision is appropriate given your current financial situation.

For help with setting goals and getting your finances in order in 2015, visit www.SmartAboutMoney.org.

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