Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two small business tax credits you may be missing if you've hired veterans or pay employee health insurance

Important email from the IRS (seriously!); There are two tax credit programs for small businesses that you may not be aware of:
  • Expanded tax credit for hiring veterans;
  • Tax credit for providing health care coverage to employees.

Read more:

For Small Business Week, IRS Spotlights Expanded Tax Credit for Hiring Veterans, Credit for Providing Health Care Coverage to Employees and Tax Relief

IR-2012-56 May 23, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is marking Small Business Week, May 20 to 26, by encouraging small business owners to check out two key tax credits and a special relief program that could provide significant tax benefits during 2012.

Both the expanded credit for hiring veterans and the credit for employer-provided health care coverage can provide tax savings to eligible small businesses when they file their 2012 federal income tax returns. In addition, substantial relief from past payroll tax obligations is available to eligible employers who agree to reclassify their workers as employees in the future. Here are details on each of these benefits.

Expanded Tax Credit for Hiring VeteransA law change enacted late last year now provides an expanded Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to employers that hire eligible unemployed veterans. The credit can be as high as $9,600 per veteran for for-profit employers or up to $6,240 for tax-exempt organizations. The amount of the credit depends on a number of factors, including the length of the veteran’s unemployment before hire, hours a veteran works and the amount of first-year wages paid. Employers who hire veterans with service-related disabilities may be eligible for the maximum credit.

Certification requirements apply to these new hires. Normally, an eligible employer must file Form 8850 with the state workforce agency within 28 days after the eligible worker begins work. But under a special rule, employers have until June 19, 2012, to complete and file this form for veterans hired on or after Nov. 22, 2011, and before May 22, 2012. The 28-day rule will again apply to eligible veterans hired on or after May 22. This form can be faxed or electronically transmitted to the state workforce agency, as long as the agency is able to receive the certification forms that way.

Businesses claim the credit on their income tax return using Form 5884 and Form 3800. A separate claim procedure using Form 5884-Capplies to eligible tax-exempt organizations. Details are on IRS.gov.

Credit Helps Small Employers Provide Health Care Coverage
Small employers that pay at least half of the premiums for employee health insurance coverage under a qualifying arrangement may be eligible for the small business health care tax credit. Enacted two years ago, the credit is designed to encourage small employers to offer health insurance coverage for the first time or maintain coverage they already have.

Eligible small employers can claim the credit for 2010 through 2013 and for two additional years beginning in 2014. Targeted to small employers that primarily employ low-and moderate-income workers, the maximum credit, in tax-years 2010 through 2013, is 35 percent of premiums paid by small businesses and 25 percent of premiums paid by tax-exempt organizations, increasing to 50 percent and 35 percent, respectively, in 2014.

Small businesses claim the credit on their income tax return using Form 8941 and Form 3800. Tax-exempt organizations also use Form 8941 and then claim the credit on Form 990-T.

The recently-revamped Small Business Health Care Tax Credit page on IRS.gov is packed with information and resources designed to help small employers see if they qualify for the credit and then figure it correctly. These include a step-by-step guide for determining eligibility, examples of typical tax savings under various scenarios, answers to frequently-asked questions, a YouTube video and a webinar.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

WSBDC Google workshops - How to Grow Your Business Online

Join the WSBDC for ‘Washington Get Your Business ONLINE’, aFREE Google™ led program that provides the tools and resources for Washington businesses to get online and succeed online. Two workshops will run concurrently.

Thursday, June 21st at 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM

Spokane Riverpoint Campus
WSU Spokane Nursing Building (SNRS),
103 East Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane WA  99202
Parking Fees on campus - WSU parking link
WSU Campus Map Link - scroll down to printable versions – SNRS bldg. #3


Get a Free Website (Computer Classroom max of 20 MUST*RSVP to secure a place)
97% of consumers search online for local products and services. If you don’t have a website, you’re virtually invisible to consumers looking online for businesses like yours. A website helps customers find you—whether they're down the street, across Iowa, or around the world. Once they've found you, your website shows them what sets you apart from other businesses. In this session, you will get the tools necessary to create a free domain name and website for your business in less than 90 minutes.
1 ½ hours | Free | 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM | Room 305F

Grow Your Business Online
In this session, find out how to take advantage of online tools to run and promote your business. You will learn about Google Analytics, Google Webmaster, the Plus 1 button, and many more free Google products targeted for small businesses. You will also customize and verify your Google Place Page.
1 + hours | Free | 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM | Room 105

*RSVP online at Google’s Washington Get Your Business ONLINE site

About the Washington Small Business Development Center
The Washington SBDC promotes economic vitality within Washington communities by providing expert business advising, demand-driven training, and applied research to existing businesses and entrepreneurs. The SBDC is a cooperative effort of Washington State University, other educational institutions, economic development organizations and the US Small Business Administration. For more information on the mission and services of the SBDC visit the network website at: http://www.wsbdc.org.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Low Interest Loan Program for Energy Efficiency Upgrades Ends Soon!

Special financing available for residential and small commercial energy efficiency improvements - interest rates as low as 1.9%.

Commercial loans: 
  • Commercial scoping audit from Avista:  No cost, takes about 1 hour of your time.
  • Participating local lenders: Spokane Teacher’s Credit Union, SNAP Financial Access
  • Interest rate:  These lower cost loans offer you reduced fees and sometimes as much as 2% lower interest rates, depending on the lender and your own credit rating and history.
  • Loan amount: Most loans will average $5,000-$15,000, but no loans will be for over $100,000.
  • Repayment terms:  3-5 years
  • Available to ALL Avista’s commercial accounts in WA state who are …
    • Small business owners, even if you don’t own your space – for equipment not permanently attached to the building.
    • Commercial property owners:  For improvements to the property itself. Includes multi-family housing (5 or more units).

Until June 30th, the interest rate on Avista’s energy efficiency loan program has dropped to 1.90% APR!  This program is available to any Avista customer – commercial or residential – in WA state, for energy efficiency and conservation measures (but not renewable energy). 

Sustainable Resources is contracted with Avista to coordinate that loan program, so contact us if you’d like to move ahead.  (Please help us spread the word to other Avista customers in WA, too.)  But don’t delay – this is only good until June 30th.  At this low rate, how can you pass it up?!

A real live grant opportunity for new (less than two years old) for-profit businesses

A real live grant program for small businesses. And here I've been telling people there are no grants. $250,000 grants for new (less than two years) for-profit businesses


You do it all to drive your business forward.

Chase and LivingSocial want to help fuel that drive by awarding up to 12 individual grants of $250,000 to 12 small businesses.
Submit your Mission: Small Business℠ application today! Program ends June 30, 2012.
Let us know how a $250,000 grant could help your business, and you could be one of the 12 businesses selected (see Program Rules).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ready to start blogging? Five quick tips to get started.

Blogging can be an excellent way to drive traffic to your website. There are a few strategic things you can do to increase traffic.  If you have the opportunity to take advantage of any SEO workshops, website audits or webinars, you can get some great advice on how to start and improve your blog.  For example, by implementing a few new strategies like doubling my blog posts and enhancing some SEO, I was able to increase website traffic by over 50% in a year.  

One of the most important things you can do when you start blogging is to do it regularly.  Set a schedule and stick to it.  I find that I'm a little disappointed when I see a 'Visit our Blog!' note and then upon visiting it, there's one post from last month and then sporadic and dated posts. 

Here are five helpful tips for getting started and using a strategic approach: 
  • Create an editorial calendar to drive content.  This doesn't have to be anything fancy, but will help you organize your posts.  If you use Wordpress, they even have a plugin.
  • Craft your key messages and search terms and incorporate them into your editorial calendar and your blogs.  Who are you trying to reach? Who is reading your blog?
  • If you aren't already, use Google Analytics to see what phrases people are searching to get to your site and include those periodically to increase your SEO.
  • If you are going to start a blog, plan on blogging regularly and get some 'in the can' to populate it before you broadcast that you're now blogging.
  • Use pictures or break up long paragraphs with bullets.  Most readers skim web content and who wants to read a dissertation or just a bunch of small fonted (is that a word?) text?  See the F-pattern below for an idea of how people read web pages (Interesting article on reading behaviors by Jakob Nielsen, useit.com) Note:  source your pictures or use some sort of free photo stock.

Here's a great HubSpot article on how you can increase your visitors and ultimately customers: 20 Simple Ways to Boost Blog Subscribers.

blog frequency resized 600

Friday, May 4, 2012

Free workshop for Veteran Business Owners: Grow your Business

The SBA Veterans Outreach Center is offering a FREE class in Spokane this month

Revenue Growth for Your Business

Who should attend this free session? Entrepreneurs who are starting up companies, business owners who seek increased growth, students and others may benefit from this session.  We hope to see many entrepreneurs who are members of the military community including veterans, service-disabled veterans, Reservists and Guard members, family members, and active-duty service members. 

Class Description:

We will discuss -
- Revenue models: Ways to sell
- Selling strategies: Ways to sell more
- Pricing tactics: Ways to price (to sell more)
- Payment options: Ways to get cash quicker

Lynn Trepp - Project Director
Veterans Business Outreach Center
SBA Region X (WA, OR, ID, AK)

Class Date & Time: Thursday, May 17, 2012, 1:00pm (One Hour Class)

Class Fee: FREE

Class Location: U.S. Small Business Administration, 801 West Riverside Avenue, Suite 444, Spokane WA 99201

Class Registration: Email to LynnT@SeattleCCD.com

Please include the following in your registration message: Attendee Name, Company Name, Email, Phone

Award Winner Grows Business with SBDC Advisor

WSBDC NEWS:  Small Business Person of the Year

Senior home services business grows with SBDC help

Thursday, Apr. 26, 2012
Marla BeckBELLEVUE, Wash. - Marla Beck started providing in-home services to seniors in 2003; by 2009 she had built Andelcare into a $1.1 million business with 65 employees.
That’s most people’s idea of a success story, but Beck had hit a wall.
She was working harder than ever, she said, but it was still a struggle. The recession had hit, competition was increasing and she started to wonder if all the work was worth it.
She remembers thinking, "Either I have to grow or I should probably just sell.”
She did not sell, and three years later her revenues are up to $2.3 million, her staff has nearly doubled and on Thursday (April 26) the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) honored her as the Washington State Small Business Person of the Year. The award was presented at the SBA annual Small Business Awards Gala at Boeing’s Museum of Flight.
Clients, caregivers matched with care
Beck - who rediscovered her passion for working with elderly people after a 20-year career in corporate finance - has worked tirelessly to create not only a successful business, but a business where she would like to be an employee. She expends an enormous amount of time and energy on hiring the right people, matching clients with caregivers, and putting policies and procedures in place to ensure that both clients and caregivers enjoy their Andelcare experience.
While some clients enjoy 24/7 care from an Andelcare employee, others might hire a companion for a couple hours a week to go shopping, have their hair done or help with cooking or personal hygiene. Each client is different and requires different services, Beck said. Likening herself to a matchmaker, Beck said her goal is for both client and caregiver to look forward to their time together.
Small business advisor "a godsend”
With an attitude of "let the baker bake,” Beck has brought in experts to help her manage various aspects of her business, from CPAs to IT providers to a payroll service. But the person she credits with being key to the phenomenal growth she has seen over the past three years is Michael J. Franz, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (WSBDC) program in Seattle.
The WSBDC is a partnership between the SBA, Washington State University, other institutions of higher education and economic development agencies. Confidential one-on-one advising is provided at no cost to clients who want to grow or start a small business. Franz is part of a network of 32 WSBDC advisors located in 26 centers across the state.

"He’s been a godsend,” Beck said. "I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without Michael.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

WSU Report: Future of Organic Agriculture Promising

Future for organic ag bright, in spite of market swings

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
By Bob Hoffmann, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences

PULLMAN, Wash. - Certified organic farmgate sales increased 16 percent to $244.6 million for 2010, the last year for which statistics were available, according to data gathered by the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Certified organic crop acreage and the number of certified organic farms in Washington state, however, decreased for the second consecutive year in 2011.

WSU Extension sustainable agriculture specialist David Granatstein and research associate Elizabeth Kirby co-authored the just-completed profile, "Certified Organic Acreage and Sales in Washington State.”
Eastern Washington accounted for 76 percent of certified organic farmgate sales in 2010.
Grant County repeated as the state’s leading producer with $64 million in farmgate sales, more than the next three counties combined. Grant County’s preeminence, according to Kirby, stems from the fact that it has more than 25 percent of the organic acreage in the state, including 36 percent of tree fruit acreage and 47 percent of vegetable acreage.

Counties significantly increasing year-over-year sales included Kittitas, Walla Walla, Skagit, Pierce and Island.
The long-term trend shows that large organic producers are using their production focus to gain an increased share of sales. Farms with sales of more than $1 million per year account for 56 percent of sales in Washington, compared to 51 percent in 2006. The smallest 30 percent of organic farms, in contrast, contribute about 1 percent of the economic output.

The profile shows certified organic acreage decreasing 12 percent to just over 90,100 acres in 2011. The number of certified organic farms dropped to 729 from 735, with two farms transitioning to organic.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

SBDC Tacoma Advisor Receives Top State Award

By Hope Belli Tinney, WSU News

TACOMA, Wash. - John Rodenberg was named the 2011 Star Performer by the Washington Small Business Development Center (WSBDC) at the network’s spring meetings in Walla Walla April 11-13.

Rodenberg, who heads the SBDC office in Tacoma at Bates Community Technical College, has been a certified business advisor since 2004. He has more than 25 years’ experience working with both major corporations and small businesses, with particular expertise in manufacturing, distribution and consulting.

According to his clients, in 2011 he was directly responsible for helping them access $3.1 million in funding and equity funding.

The WSBDC is a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration, Washington State University, other institutions of higher education and economic development agencies.

John Rodenberg and
SBDC State Director Rogers
Brett Rogers, state director of the WSBDC, said Rodenberg exemplifies the best qualities of small business technical advisors.
"He’s an engineer by training,” Rogers said, "so he’s methodical, logical, well organized and a good linear thinker. All of that pays off for John’s clients.”

Rogers said Rodenberg is consistently one of the top performers in the network. In his eight years with the WSBDC network, Rodenberg has been recognized eight times for helping his clients secure more than $1 million in debt or equity funding and has a lifetime total of $26.7 million.
"He’s someone the entire network is proud of,” Rogers said.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spokane SBDC Introduces New Business Advisor

Tammy Everts
Business Advisor

About Tammy Everts  
Tammy Everts joined the SBDC network in April of 2012 with over twenty years' experience in municipal government and economic development. She is an Associate Faculty member with Washington State University and the Spokane center serves the greater Spokane area, including Spokane, Stevens, and Lincoln counties.

Everts has worked with local industry, manufacturers, start-ups and entrepreneurs and knows what types of resources business owners and entrepreneurs are seeking and where to find information.

Tammy spent over five years with the Yakima County Development Association, a county-wide economic development organization. During her time with the agency, she worked in marketing and recruitment, business development, was director of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, maintained an entrepreneur and industry website and blog, coordinated workforce training and development activities for local manufacturers and organized and implemented a successful business plan competition for new businesses.

Everts has more than 15 years experience in municipal government; ranging from the cities of Prosser, Richland and Grandview, Washington and Soda Springs, Idaho. She has worked in almost every department for a city from running a parks & recreation department to doing payroll for 65 to 400 employees, and serving as Deputy City Clerk and Executive Assistant to the City Administrator. Everts has an MBA from City University and a BS degree in Recreation from the University of Idaho.

Areas of Specialization:
*Business counseling and coaching for entrepreneurs, start-up companies or existing businesses.
*Business plan development, review and analysis.
*Business expansion.
*Starting a business in Washington State.
*Tax credit and tax incentive programs, workforce development resources and other resources for new and expanding businesses.
*Government procurement.
*Business communication: blogs, social media, website maintenance and e-newsletters.

The Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network is your resource for expert business advising, management training and market research. SBDC advisors offer one-on-one technical assistance at no charge to make sure you have the information you need to make the decisions that are right for you and your company. You can reach Tammy or the Spokane SBDC at (509) 358-7893, or via the website to make an appointment.