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Matt’s Bait-n-Tackle

A storefront in Sand Lake is getting new life with the arrival of Matt’s Bait-n-Tackle, at 45 E Lake Street, the former home of Bay Leaf Books.

Owned by Mary Wagner, the store was just established this month. “It is a new store for all the fisher-people near and around Sand Lake,” said Wagner. “Before there was nothing close by. We asked around, and there was a huge need for it.”

Wagner said the family-oriented business is unique because they are in the business of offering something for everyone. “We provide bait and tackle, munchies, and candy for kids,” she explained.

She noted that their edge over competition is service, service, service—with a smile. “We will go above and beyond to service our customers. We welcome their input and are always willing to satisfy their fishing needs.”

They hope to grow in the future, but not too much. “We enjoy the small-town atmosphere and want to make our customers feel like family,” said Wagner. She also noted that they will decorate in red, white, and blue because they love our veterans.

Thinking about going fishing? Check them out for all your fishing needs! Stop in and see them from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, or give them a call at 616-477-3133.

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How small business owners can deduct their home office from their taxes

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Tax tip 2022-10 from IRS.gov

The home office deduction allows qualified taxpayers to deduct certain home expenses when they file taxes. To claim the home office deduction on their 2021 tax return, taxpayers generally must exclusively and regularly use part of their home or a separate structure on their property as their primary place of business.

Here are some details about this deduction to help taxpayers determine if they can claim it:

Employees are not eligible to claim the home office deduction.  

The home office deduction, calculated on Form 8829, is available to both homeowners and renters.  

There are certain expenses taxpayers can deduct. These may include mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs, maintenance, depreciation and rent.  

Taxpayers must meet specific requirements to claim home expenses as a deduction. Even then, the deductible amount of these types of expenses may be limited.  

The term “home” for purposes of this deduction:  

Includes a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home, boat or similar property.

Also includes structures on the property. These are places like an unattached garage, studio, barn or greenhouse.

Doesn’t include any part of the taxpayer’s property used exclusively as a hotel, motel, inn or similar business.

Generally, there are two basic requirements for the taxpayer’s home to qualify as a deduction:  

There generally must be exclusive use of a portion of the home for conducting business on a regular basis. For example, a taxpayer who uses an extra room to run their business can take a home office deduction only for that extra room so long as it is used both regularly and exclusively in the business.

The home must generally be the taxpayer’s principal place of business. A taxpayer can also meet this requirement if administrative or management activities are conducted at the home and there is no other location to perform these duties. Therefore, someone who conducts business outside of their home but also uses their home to conduct business may still qualify for a home office deduction.  

Expenses that relate to a separate structure not attached to the home may qualify for a home office deduction. They will qualify only if the structure is used exclusively and regularly for business.  

Taxpayers who qualify may choose one of two methods to calculate their home office expense deduction:  

The simplified option has a rate of $5 a square foot for business use of the home. The maximum size for this option is 300 square feet. The maximum deduction under this method is $1,500.

When using the regular method, deductions for a home office are based on the percentage of the home devoted to business use. Taxpayers who use a whole room or part of a room for conducting their business need to figure out the percentage of the home used for business activities to deduct indirect expenses. Direct expenses are deducted in full.

Share this tip on social media — #IRSTaxTip: How small business owners can deduct their home office from their taxes. https://go.usa.gov/xtbkP

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BBB: Tips to avoid tax scams

From the Better Business Bureau

January 19, 2022 — It is the new year, and that means preparing to file your taxes. While the actual due date seems far away, starting early can save you from headaches down the road. 

Scams are common during tax season. The number one scam to watch out for is identity theft. This happens when a scammer uses your Social Security number and other personal information to file a tax return in your name in order to collect your refund. Consumers often don’t realize they’re victims until they get a written notice from the IRS saying someone else had already filed a return.

“The easiest way to avoid a tax scam is to file as early as possible, so the scammers don’t have a chance to use your information and file before you do,” says Lisa Frohnapfel, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “It is always important to protect your personal information; however, filing early can help protect your tax return.” 

Another popular scam involves people impersonating the IRS. The scammers call, email or text claiming to be from the IRS. They pressure you to provide personal information or a payment. They may claim you owe money and must pay right away by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. If you don’t comply, the scammer threatens you with arrest and fines. 

The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan has tips on how to avoid falling victim and file safely. 

File your taxes as early as possible. 

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text or social media to request personal financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.

If you do owe, the IRS will give you a chance to ask questions or appeal. The IRS will never demand immediate payment, require a specific form of payment, or ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. Pressure to act quickly is a red flag that it is a scam. 

Write down your Identity Protection Pin from the IRS before you file your return. Victims of identity theft and others can be issued a six-digit number that will be used to confirm your identity, along with your Social Security number. But, once you apply for a PIN, you cannot opt-out and must use the pin each year you file your federal tax return. You will receive a new PIN each December by mail. Visit the IRS for more information about the program. Read BBB’s tips about the IRS PIN. 

Make sure you are accessing the REAL IRS when filing electronically. Visit irs.gov, and make sure the lock symbol is in the browser window. This means the website is secure and safe to enter personal sensitive information.

Only deal with trustworthy tax preparation services. See our tips for finding the right tax preparer for you. 

If you are the victim of tax identity theft, contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. The FTC also offers a personalized identity theft recovery plan at identitytheft.gov.

Visit bbb.org/taxtips for more resources on how to find a qualified accountant or tax preparer near you and learn more ways to avoid tax scams. 

Report any tax scams to bbb.org/scamtracker.

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Manage Your Working Capital to Maintain Business Success

As the owner of a small business, you may think it has little in common with a large corporation. While it is true that you will likely rely more on trade credit, bank financing, lease financing and personal equity, your long-term investment decisions require the same kind of analysis used by large firms. The key is understanding those factors that affect financial decisions, how they apply to your business’s short- and long-term goals and strategies, and any other influences that may be unique to your situation.

Working capital is the difference between current assets and current liabilities. Lack of close control on working capital is one cause of business failure. The small business owner must be constantly alert to changes in working capital, the reasons for them, and any resulting business implications.

It is helpful for the owner to think of working capital in terms of its six components:

1.  Cash and equivalents. This most liquid form of working capital requires constant supervision.  A good cash budgeting system addresses many important considerations: whether the cash level is adequate to meet current expenses as they come due; timing of cash inflow, cash outflow and peak cash needs; amount to borrow to meet cash shortfalls; and the timing of repayment of loans.

2.   Accounts receivable. Almost all businesses extend credit to their customers. Make sure the amount of accounts receivable is reasonable in relation to sales and that receivables are being collected promptly. Identify slow-paying customers and have a strategy for dealing with them.

3.   Inventory. Inventory often constitutes as much as 50 percent of a firm’s current assets. Is the inventory level reasonable compared with sales and the nature of the business? Know the rate of inventory turnover compared with other companies in your type of business.

4.   Accounts payable. Financing by trade is common in small business and is one of the major sources of funds for entrepreneurs. Understand whether your business’s payment policy is helping or hurting your credit rating. Know the timing pattern between payment of accounts payable and collections of accounts receivable.

5.   Notes payable. Notes to banks or other financial sources represent a popular alternative financing source. Note whether the amount of borrowing is reasonable compared to the equity financing of the firm. Look at when payments are due and whether the money will be there to make these payments on schedule.

6.   Accrued expenses and taxes payable. These are obligations of the firm at any given time and represent expenses already obligated, even if payment is not yet issued.

If you would like to discuss business financing, understanding financial statements or budgeting, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE has volunteer business counselors who provide free and confidential advice to small business. For the SCORE chapter nearest you, call 1-800/634-0245, or find a counselor online at www.score.org.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 389 SCORE chapters around the country assisting entrepreneurs. While counseling is always free-of-charge, local SCORE chapters also offer small business workshops and seminars for modest fees.

To learn more about SCORE and its counseling services, call 1-616-771-0305, or visit the Grand Rapids Score chapter at grandrapids.score.org. email your questions to the Grand Rapids Chapter of SCORE  at score@grandrapids.org.

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Three ways you can help local small businesses thrive

(BPT) – There are millions of small businesses in the United States owned by passionate people working hard to make their dreams a reality. Rather than buying from a big retailer the next time you need something, consider supporting the locally owned businesses around you.

When you support a small business, you’re not only helping build your community, but also directly impacting someone’s life. Every customer counts when it comes to small business, which means your dollars can help that small business owner thrive.

For example, as the nation’s largest insurer, State Farm has more than 19,000 agents who are small business owners themselves, who are committed to restoring lives, rebuilding neighborhoods and investing in the communities where they live and work. This desire to help started 100 years ago when the company was founded by a farmer who was concerned that big city insurance companies would not serve the specific needs of his business and community.

This holiday season is the perfect time to support your local businesses. Here are three simple ways to support small businesses and have a positive impact this holiday season and beyond:

Get to know your community through its businesses

While holidays are important times to shop local, your support matters all year long. For many people, this means shifting their mindset to thinking about local options first and getting to know the types of products and services your local businesses are providing.

Whether you are purchasing items for yourself or someone else, start to understand how these local businesses can fill your needs. Don’t forget, many small businesses offer gift cards, which are wonderful ways to show ongoing support.

Support small business service providers

Small businesses aren’t just for tangible goods. Many provide important services, such as your local mechanic, dentist or insurance agent. So, no matter your needs, try and find businesses that are active in the community.

You can spot these businesses by seeing how they engage with their neighbors. Look for the providers that are going above and beyond to support the neighborhood and other small businesses. By supporting those that have a strong investment in your community, you are helping them create a greater impact.

“From doughnut shops to beverage distributors, from hair salons to warehouses, State Farm agents are perfectly suited to help small business owners protect their dreams, their livelihoods and their families,” said Chief Agency, Sales & Marketing Officer and former State Farm Agent Rand Harbert. “We offer products and services business owners need, and State Farm agents are small business owners themselves.”

Share your experience

Many small businesses rely on satisfied customers to tell others so they can grow their client base. People trust word of mouth, so your effort makes a difference.

In fact, more than eight out of 10 people around the world said they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family, according to Nielsen. Plus, two-thirds said they trust online opinions from consumers. So, tell a friend in person, share a post on social media, or leave a positive review online.

If you’re a small business owner, consider using your platform to build up other entrepreneurs in your neighborhood. Heading into the holiday season, State Farm’s agents are using their networks and social media channels to promote the small businesses in the communities they serve.

The next time you have a need arise, think of how a small business can help. Every effort counts to build your community, show your support, and ensure you continue to have thriving small businesses near you.

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Avoid delivery and shipping scams this holiday season

From The Better Business Bureau

You scored awesome deals this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and now you anxiously wait for your packages to arrive. But with millions of packages delivered each year, con artists and thieves have developed many ways to steal from shoppers. Fortunately, there are also many ways to protect yourself from their shady tactics.

“Delivery scams and theft are particularly widespread during the holidays,” says Lisa Frohnapfel, President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “Consumers shouldn’t just hope everything arrives as planned. Instead, it’s important to make sure you protect yourself and your purchases.”

How to avoid popular delivery scams: 

Look out for phishing texts or emails that pose as official notices from delivery companies. These either contain a “tracking link” or a message that the shipper is having difficulty delivering a package to you, or a link to update delivery preferences. Clicking the link either takes you to a form that asks for personally identifying information, or to a site that downloads malware onto your computer. Go to the delivery carrier’s website directly or log in and use the retailer’s tracking tools. 

Don’t leave packages sitting on your doorstep. If you won’t be home, have your package delivered to your workplace, or to a trusted friend or neighbor who will be home to accept delivery. Some delivery companies allow you to schedule your delivery for a time when someone will be home. Another option some companies offer is lockers where your packages can securely wait for you to pick them up using a one-time code to open the locker.  

Take advantage of online tracking services offered by retailers; if the company says it was delivered but it’s not at the delivered address, report it.

Consider monitoring the front door. If you have a home security camera system, make sure it captures activity at your front door and mailbox. If you catch any mail thieves in the act, save the video and alert your local Postal Inspectors.

Customize the delivery. If you know the package is going to be larger than the mailbox, authorize the carrier to leave it in a specified out-of-sight location. You can also request pick-up at their facility.

Watch for suspicious activity. Some thieves follow delivery trucks waiting for the opportune time to steal packages. If you notice something out of place in your neighborhood, report it to the police with specific details.

Visit BBB.org/AvoidScams to learn more and if you’ve been the victim of a delivery scam.

Report scams at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.

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Five ways to support small businesses by shopping locally this holiday season

(BPT) – While big businesses receive attention during the holidays for offers of free shipping, buy one get one free and other promotions, it’s small businesses who are truly the heartbeat of local communities and help bring magical experiences to this time of year. From holiday lights in the center of town, to decorations and pictures with winter characters, receiving a warm smile and possibly a tasty delight from a local pastry chef while shopping at a small business brings holiday joy to all.

The 32 million small businesses in the U.S. employ nearly 61 million workers, or about 47% of the labor force, according to the U.S Small Business Association. But small businesses are also the most vulnerable, as sudden changes in fortune – like a recession, natural disasters or an unprecedented pandemic – can shutter many of them for good.

For boutique retailers and other small businesses who vie for consumer mindset, the holiday season can make or break them. While mass market stores and big brand online merchants continue to grab market share, smaller brick-and-mortar or local e-commerce shops often offer the most customized and unique holiday gifts. And it’s up to their neighbors, in countless communities from coast to coast, to show appreciation by opening their wallets and providing local small businesses a much-needed fiscal boost before the end of the year.

With many restaurants, shops and other entrepreneurial entities still recovering from the effects of a difficult 2020 holiday season hit hard by the pandemic, small businesses need assistance this year more than ever and they may find it from unexpected places – in some cases, from big businesses.

For example, Wells Fargo has supported its small business customers and extended philanthropic support to the broader community throughout the pandemic. Efforts have included working together with more than 3 million small businesses across the country to help them get back to thriving, and the creation of its Open for Business Fund, a roughly $420 million recovery effort offering capital, technical assistance and long-term programs for small businesses. In preparation for the holidays, Wells Fargo’s Hope, USA program will build on the bank’s foundation of support by helping to beautify business districts in more than a dozen cities nationwide and encouraging everyone to join in giving hope a hand this holiday season by supporting small businesses and shopping locally.

Here are five ways you too can help to support small businesses this holiday season.

1) Do your gift shopping locally. While it can sometimes be more efficient to holiday shop at one-stop mass online retailers, it’s more fun to window-shop for – and purchase – unusual gifts from local boutiques, pop-up stores or marketplaces. And if you prefer to shop online, there are many mom-and-pop e-tailers who sell a variety of specialty and craft products. Not only can an out-of-the-ordinary gift delight a friend or family member on your shopping list, so, too, can the story you’ll be able to share about where and from whom you purchased it.

2) Leave lots of “likes.” If you enjoyed your small business experience, take five minutes to write and post a review online, via Yelp, Google or other crowd-sourced business review sites and social media platforms. With limited marketing budgets, positive word-of-mouth may be the best way to help increase awareness of and spark sales at your favorite stores.

3) Grab holiday grub. While chain grocery stores are a great one-stop shopping option, they can’t compete with local farms, markets, produce stands, microbreweries and bakeries for locally grown or produced treats. Whether it’s locally ground cornmeal, grape-to-glass merlot from a nearby vineyard and winery, or mouthwatering schinkenbrot rolls from a German bakery, foods seem a bit tastier and drinks a bit sweeter when produced just down the road.

4) Shop kindly. If you are a fan of a local merchant’s goods, buy a few more items than usual. You or a gift recipient will love the special indulgence, and the merchant will appreciate the additional, well-deserved business boost.

5) Purchase now for later. Supporting small businesses by purchasing a gift card is a great way to contribute to their immediate cash flow during this busy season. The gift of a gift card can also help small businesses win new customers down the road.

Help make the holiday season merrier than ever for small local businesses. Your efforts may help them survive and thrive into 2022 and beyond.

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Six simple tips to protect yourself from online crime

(BPT) – Strange texts and curious emails requesting personal information. Unauthorized purchases on your credit card. New online accounts being opened in your name. Digital crime can vary greatly and is increasingly concerning as criminals get more sophisticated every day.

The Federal Trade Commission received 2.2 million fraud reports in 2020, including identity theft and imposter scams. The FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report stated losses exceeding $4.2 billion. Unfortunately, many experts predict digital crime to grow in the coming years, especially as large-scale data breaches become more common.

In fact, a recent survey from digital security company Aura in conjunction with Harris Poll revealed about three in four U.S. adults recognize that data breaches are serious. Further, 60% of people worry a lot about them and 53% are concerned about the safety of their personal information online.

“Today, Americans lose more money to digital crime than to home burglary,” said Hari Ravichandran, CEO and founder of Aura. “While we spend billions each year on home security systems, many people don’t even take the basic precautions to protect themselves online.”

Technology is an important part of daily life, so digital security should be taken seriously. According to the survey, eight in 10 people know they should be doing more to protect themselves online.

A proactive approach is the best way to keep you and your family safe. Ravichandran shares six simple ways to keep yourself, your information and finances secure.

1. Use complex passwords

Update passwords so they consist of a random combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Use a password manager to store and remember them. Continue to set up two factor authentication for your accounts and, when possible, opt to use an authentication app over text verification codes.

2. Check financial and medical statements monthly

Your financial and medical statements are often the first signs that you’ve been involved in a breach. Set transaction alerts through your bank to flag large purchases and check your monthly bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity.

3. Monitor your credit

Stay familiar with what’s in your credit reports. Order a free annual report from all three credit bureaus to make sure that data in each credit report is accurate and matches the others. Additionally, consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service that continuously sends you alerts of any changes. If you notice any suspicious activity, take action right away and freeze your credit through an application like Aura or by contacting the credit bureaus to avoid potential damage to your credit that could take years to resolve.

4. Don’t ignore software updates

Hackers exploit security flaws in phone and computer operating systems in order to steal consumers’ data. When a company discovers a security flaw in their operating system, they’ll develop and release a patch to users. Until that patch is installed, the user and their information remains vulnerable.

5. Tighten social media privacy settings

Many people provide personal information like their name, birthday, job and hometown on their social media profiles. Remove personal information like this from online profiles and update your user settings to increase privacy on who can view your full profile and posts. Further, children under the age of 18 are often the target of child identity theft, because their credit score is completely unmarked. Posting information about your children on social media, even just their full names and birthdays, can be just as dangerous as posting your own.

6. Don’t click on links in emails or texts

Scams can be difficult to identify. As a rule, don’t click on links that are emailed or texted to you from unknown sources. Don’t respond to emails that ask for your personal information, and always be discerning when receiving offers that seem too good to be true.

All of these steps can be overwhelming, but with Aura’s simple subscription and easy-to-use app, you can have access to proactive digital security that alerts you to potential threats and helps resolve any issues. Members benefit from an experienced team of customer service professionals and a $1 million insurance policy to cover any losses from identity theft and fraud.

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Would your hobby make a good business?

Running a successful business centered on doing something you love is the dream of many entrepreneurs. What could be more gratifying than making a living sharing your talents and skills with others?

On the Internet, you’ll find a long list of articles and resources offering advice and insight specifically geared toward hobbyists who want to take the step and go from “passion” to “profit.” 

It’s not difficult to find success stories about everyday people—from photographers to interior designers to carpenters and others—who have turned hobbies and interests they were passionate about into viable businesses. 

That’s encouraging if you’re contemplating making the transition from hobbyist to small business owner. It’s important to know, however, that not all hobbies (and the people participating in them) may be well suited for entrepreneurship.

Here are some essential points to consider as you explore the feasibility of your hobby becoming a sustainable business:

  • Will you still enjoy doing the work after you have to do it (versus having the luxury of doing it only when you’re inspired to)?
  • Are you willing to put yourself out there? It’s one thing to work on your hobby for your own satisfaction and another to put what you produce out there to be scrutinized by others. 
  • Will people (and enough of them) be willing to pay for what you create?
  • Do you have the knowledge and capacity to both create your product or service AND take care of the other administrative and operational responsibilities that come with starting and running a business?

SCORE mentor Dennis Wright from the Orange County, California chapter suggests you take the following actions as you assess the viability of your hobby becoming a business that supports you and your family:

1. Identify who your prospective customer really is. Not everyone is going to be interested in your product or service.         

2. Determine the benefit you’ll be selling. What need or want will your product or service satisfy?   

3. Consider how you’ll communicate your value proposition and why your product or service is better than those of your competitors. 

4. Establish what your prospective customers would be willing to pay for your product or service. 

5. Do the math. Can you be profitable at that price point? Make sure you consider overhead costs in addition to cost of goods sold.   

“Once you complete your research and have the answers to those basic questions you’ll be ready to start drafting a business plan,” explains Wright. “A written plan is important because it helps identify the time, energy, and money necessary to take your hobby to another level.” 

If you need assistance in determining if you and your hobby are suited for small business, there are resources out there to help you. Consider taking advantage of the free mentoring services from SCORE, a nonprofit association offering a wealth of information resources, training, and free counseling designed to help entrepreneurs nationwide build productive, profitable businesses. 

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.

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Save A Lot is now Price Cutter

Some of you have been wondering about the changes going on at Save A Lot. We received this information from them this week:

Save A Lot, located at 14301 White Creek, in Cedar Springs, was established in the year 2000 and has been proud to serve its customers in the greater Cedar Springs market since its opening. The store closed for remodeling and to change its product supplier on Monday, October 11th and reopened Saturday, October 16th as a Price Cutter grocery store. For the next several weeks we will continue to evolve adding another aisle of product to the store, greatly enhancing your selection of products.  We ask for our customer’s patience during our continued conversion to Price Cutter.

Price Cutter is part of Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. a Kansas corporation founded in 1924 and is a member owned cooperative. They service well over 3,800 stores in 36 states with over $10 billion dollars in sales. 

The Price Cutter grocery model is designed to offer more than a limited assortment grocery store. Price Cutter is unparalleled in the greater Grand Rapids market thus providing our customers with the value of the nation’s leading limited assortment grocery store combined with a larger product assortment! We will continue to provide a wide assortment of value priced fresh produce and superior savings on our fresh butcher cut meats prepared daily at the store. Look for the Price Cutter phone app information inside the store that will present our weekly ad along with high value digital coupons on products in the store. 

We invite everyone to stop in and see for yourself the great new values on the high quality grocery products available everyday that Price Cutter brings to the greater Cedar Springs market area.  Hours of operation are Sunday 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

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Ray Winnie
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