Making unwanted travel a deductible expense

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This is a guest post by Craig Keolanui of SmBizWinningTips

You might have heard of planning a vacation around a trade show or convention that you can attend, but consider those trips you want to take but don’t necessarily want to spend money on, such as weddings or other family events.

It would be nice to write off some of these expenses and, if done carefully, it is entirely possible.

Most often these trips involve expensive airfare and covering your business in your absence, so getting a tax break is the best way to recoup some of these costs. The key is to mix business with pleasure and the rest is as easy as keeping organized receipts.

What else can be accomplished on your trip?
Make your personal trip a business trip. Network with old friends and read up about conventions or events involving small businesses in the destination city’s publications or websites. Attend a convention, trade show or a conference or anything that can directly relate to your business. Make sure to keep some type of documentation to justify the travel expenses.

Hold onto the ticket stubs, notes from a conference, brochures or any material that supports the reason for taking the trip.

Evaluate possible deductions prior to the trip.
You obviously will pay more for last-minute travel arrangements, in some cases, so your airfare will be the first thing on the list. If you have to rent a car, that will follow, but don’t forget to log mileage and document your driving to and from any scheduled appointment or meeting. All travel meals will be worthy of 50% of the expense, but eating at the homes of family or friends will make the trip less costly.

Be careful about what else you try to expense. It would be unwise to try to write off flowers that you purchase for Aunt Edna’s bedside or the wedding gift you bought, unless the bride or groom is a client.

If your trip is prolonged, have more than one business reason.
If you stay over a week and plan on deducting the hotel room and meals, it is smart to have more than one business engagement to attend. This will help keep things above board if you were to face an audit.

Last-minute personal trips happen all the time, and operating a small business provides some advantages to offset the cost. In an occupation where long hours are spent and time is very short, it’s important to maximize every opportunity to save money.

Just In: New estimate statuses to better track potential business

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Last week’s flavor was saving time with bulk printing. This week we are planning to get you more organized with regard to your potential business.

The average life of an estimate undergoes several trials and testing phases before it reaches the ‘invoiced’ stage. Along with Draft, Sent and Invoiced, we’ve now introduced three new estimate statuses in Zoho Books and Zoho Invoice – Accepted, Declined and Expired.

When a client approves the proposal, you can mark the estimate as ‘accepted’. All the accepted estimates will give you an idea on how to prioritize and plan your time so you can manage multiple projects comfortably.

Declined estimates could be a due to a lot of reasons even including the low budget. But if you have a trail of declined estimates for specific customers, analysis of that will give you insight on how to change your modus operandi the next time.

As a freelancer or small business owner you cannot have clients hanging onto your estimates forever. An expiry date acts as a catalyst for an earlier discussion and merry times ahead.

Classifying estimates helps to track them better and it gives a better idea of the potential business coming your way.

Now, with an approved estimate in hand, the next thing you would want is to create an invoice. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the software already took care of that!

Just head over to the ‘Settings‘ tab and select the option ‘Yes‘ to convert an estimate to invoice as soon as it is approved. Once the project is complete, head to the Invoice list and there you’ll find the ‘new invoice‘ in the draft status waiting for your next move.

Read more about estimate statuses in our help documentation. Hope you like it. Check it out and do share your feedback right here.

Customer Spotlight – Wedding Planner Finds Zoho Books To Be A Time Saver

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Every girl wants the happiest day in her life to be ‘just perfect’. Cathy Akinkunmi decided to don the hat of a wedding planner and decorator while planning her daughter’s 10th birthday ‘Princess’ Theme party.

The result was Beautiful Linen Rentals. She says,

When ‘you’ are responsible for the little details that makes the perfect wedding, you’ve got to be on top of your game every single moment.

As a wedding planner she’s constantly wearing multiple hats. While meeting new clients, discussing decor style, selecting colors and setting up the venue are part of her job description, she also needs to manage her business. When she’s busy ensuring the day remains perfect for someone else, she needs assurance that her finances are being managed well. Returning home to messy paperwork is not what she looks forward to at the end of the day.

She started managing her accounts with good old excel. But as the business grew, she wanted an online application which was simple, customizable and which gave her the snapshot of her financial health at any given point. With a busy schedule and working 16 hours a day, she didn’t have the patience nor the time to learn complicated software. She found Zoho Books when she was looking for a simple accounting application for small business and after the free trial she was sold.

The ability to download my banking information and auto populate my expenditure is just awesome and saves a lot of my time. Zoho gives me the opportunity to free up valuable time to focus on other issues, issues which I cannot delegate at this point in time.

Read more about Cathy’s story, a multifaceted person, who enjoys creating the ‘perfect’ day for someone special.

Debunking the Myth: “You need to spend money to make money”

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This is a guest post by Shabana Shiliwala, who owns The Financial Sort, a financial planning company based in Austin, Texas.

How many small businesses have gone under because they believed the myth “You need to spend money to make money” at face value? Following this phrase literally has led too many business owners on the wrong path, forgetting the first rule of business success–be profitable.

Remember this simple equation: Income – Expenses = Profit. If your profit isn’t where it needs to be, take a closer look at your expenses. You only have so much control over your income, but you’re fully in control of how much money you spend.

Debts
Many business owners automatically believe they need a loan to operate a business based on their estimated operating costs. Try reversing your thinking: can you lower your operating costs so you can borrow less or eliminate the need to borrow any money at all? The less money you owe, the less money you’ll spend each month on debt payments.

Tax deductions
You’re not the only business owner who has fallen into the spending trap of thinking, “It’s deductible.” Deductions only matter if your business is making enough profit to owe significant taxes in the first place. Even when your business has reached that point, you can have it both ways by making a contribution to a business retirement plan–you get the deduction without spending any money.

Employees
Employee expenses usually make up the bulk of most income statements–payroll, unemployment taxes, benefits, etc. Before deciding you need more employees or even any employees, consider lower-cost alternatives like hiring an independent contractor or temp as needed.

Rent
Besides being one of your largest monthly expenses, renting commercial space usually involves lengthy lease timeframes, reducing your flexibility to cut costs in this area. New business owners often dismiss the idea of starting out by working from home, but choosing this route could put you on the fast track to profitability by keeping your expenses low. When that’s not an option, start out with a lower rent at first by choosing a smaller space or less trendy area. You can always expand and upgrade once your business income can support a higher rent without affecting profitability.

Advertising
Social media has created low-cost advertising options that never existed before. If your target markets use social media, you can reach large numbers at a fraction of the cost of advertising in traditional media.

Stop following the crowd before you fall off the cliff. The reality is, “You need to spend less money to make money.”

Customer Spotlight: Accounting Knowledge Not A Must For Zoho Books

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College coursework is often deficient in giving 360 degree industry perspective to graduates who are ready and eager to join the corporate world. OysterConnect.com was founded to bridge that gap. OysterConnect.com is a technology platform, which connects seasoned industry veterans and educational institutes. Through mentorship, workshops, projects etc., these industry professionals are able to connect to the students and enrich their coursework by giving the much needed industry exposure.

A week ago, I was chatting with Pragya Sharma, Assistant Manager – HR (OysterConnect.com), where she shared her experience on managing the financial aspects of running the business. HR manager managing finance! Surprised right? When the company is young with very few employees, individuals invariably don multiple hats. Pragya didn’t like the idea of being chained to her desktop to know the financial health of the business. And after having searched for an online accounting software for the company, she decided to choose Zoho Books to manage their funds and to invoice their clients. Her first impression of Zoho Books was,

“For a person with zero accounting knowledge, Zoho Books was very easy for me. I did not require any kind of demo or training to get started and the customer support has been phenomenol. All my queries are answered within 24 hours and it’s just outstanding.”

Click here to read more about OysterConnect’s story

Just In: Read-Only Mode for Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books

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Continuing from where we left off on the Read-Only mode update for Zoho services, we are happy to announce that Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books services too are now running in read-only mode from our secondary data center in the New York metro region. You can access the services via the below mentioned URL’s.

Zoho Invoice: https://invoice-ro.zoho.com

Zoho Books : https://books-ro.zoho.com

What you’ll see here is an exact replica of your data which is stored in our secondary data center. If an unexpected outage renders the primary data center inaccessible, you’ll still be able to access the read-only mode of your account.

What you can do : Search any record you want,  run unlimited reports and also export various entities like the invoices list, estimates list, Items list etc.,

What you can’t do: As this is a read-only mode, you will not be able to add, edit or delete any record. Integration with other applications like Zoho CRM or Zoho Project is also not possible as it involves adding or modifying records.

We understand the importance of having access to your data all the time, therefore we wanted to kick in the read-only mode to our customers as soon as possible. Go ahead and bookmark (Ctrl+D) the website links and access it anytime you want.

Import Bank Statements into Zoho Books in 3 Quick Steps

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In our last post, we had announced feeds from more than 2000 banks in Zoho Books and we’ve been getting some great feedback from our customers. For those who still haven’t been able to enjoy the benefits of automatic bank feeds, you can still reduce data entry to a considerable extent by importing your bank statements directly into our accounting software.

All you have to do is ‘Select’, ‘Map’ and ‘Import.’
Import Bank Statements in accounting softwareSelect: Your first step, requires you to select the ‘statement’. Begin your journey by getting hold of an electronic format of your bank or credit card statement (CSV or TSV file) and feed it into Zoho Books. Choose your preferred amount column format, so your withdrawals and deposits may be arranged by Zoho Books in the right manner.

Map: Your next pit stop is the ‘Map Fields‘. Here you get to match the bank statement column headers to Zoho Books headers. If you plan to import statements frequently, then a quick tip to save time would be to click on ‘save your selection’ as shown in the image below. Next time you import, fields will be automatically mapped.

 

Save selection while mapping fields

Import: Your final step in this short journey ends with Zoho Books letting you know if the mission was accomplished, by giving you an import summary. Once you click the ‘Import’ button, all your transactions will be available in Zoho Book.

Take a look at out help document for more information on importing statements. This feature considerably reduces the time to reconcile your bank and credit card accounts. We hope you like it. Send us your feedback in the comment section below.