8 Last Minute Resources To Help You With Your Tax Return

Filing Tax ReturnsAudits, tax payments, confusing forms—just three reasons why everyone hates tax season. And though you don’t need another, you can probably think of a few more yourself.  It’s hard to feel anything but dread this time of year.

So you do what you can to make things easier and cheaper. But even that has its drawbacks. For instance, if you decide to cut out the accountant and the fees, you may have to do some major research to properly file a tax return on your own.

That being said, if you aren’t too tax savvy, finding answers to your questions will be the real challenge. Of course, there is the IRS website for official directions and answers, which should be on the top of your list. Yet if you need some clarification or insight, what sources do you turn to at the 11th hour?

Try and see if a few of the following sites can help boil down the essentials for you. They come well-stocked with helpful, easy-to-read articles and credible writers that have extensive experience and knowledge in the field.

H&R Block TaxTips

The Tax Tips section of the H&R Block blog covers some of the most common topics including filing status, tax deductions, and tax refunds. This blog makes sure that you have the answers to all the basic questions on filing.

Intuit Accountants

As you may know, Intuit has been providing small businesses, accountants and individuals with tax preparation tools like QuickBooks. Fortunately, the accountants that use the software are highly active in helping their clients and each other with tax questions on both the blog and the online Intuit Accountants community. Sift through them with a few keywords and you’re likely to find a thread or post that can point you in the right direction.

TurboTax Blog

The TurboTax blog is also another good starting point for tax tips. If you’re a TurboTax user, you might be going through this blog already.  Topics you can find posts on include deductions, 401K, incomes and investments, home, education and a few more categories that can generate some of the most commonly asked tax questions.

About.com Tax

Because instructions and policies on filing taxes can be really confusing, a good idea is to start at the beginning. The About.com Tax section is filled with basic (and intermediate) tips for individuals, articles for business professionals, and even advice for tax preparers.  There’s a good list of Tax Planning categories to explore, so you’re bound to find the answers you need.

TaxGirl.com

Unlike most of us, Kelly Pillips Erb, tax attorney and tax writer/blogger is enthusiastic about taxes—and it shows! Her blog, TaxGirl.com, and column on Forbes.com are both all about explaining and discussing tax issues as well as covering news in the industry. Her insights and articles provide a lot of perspective that can help you make well-informed tax-filing decisions.

eSmartTax.com & Liberty Tax Service

eSmartTax.com is the online division of Liberty Tax Service, a  US-based tax preparation service. The site and content are easily accessible and provide you with tax related topics, discussions and resources. The main Liberty Tax Service site itself contains a good section on tax resources and posts on their Tax Lounge blog you can go through.

AccountingWeb.com

It was hard to pick one single blog from this roster, so we give you the full list. Like the Intuit Accountants community, AccountingWeb.com  is a good starting point for those needing the perspective of an accountant. All writers have their credentials and fields of expertise listed, so you can determine which professional might have the answers you need.

Tax Policy Center

This one makes the list for its authoritative value. Made up of experts with years of experience in tax, budget, and social policy, Tax Policy Center is focused on bringing you information on the policies behind the taxes you file. With an official library of publications, a dedicated blog,  and sections devoted to Tax Facts and Tax Topics, this site is hands down a must-visit resource.

Remember that these sites only provide you with extra information, not legal financial advice on preparing your taxes. Thus, while you may feel some anxiety about filing taxes on your own, it doesn’t mean you have to go into it unprepared.

This was a very short list for such a complex topic. If we missed one which you think should be on here, let us know by adding your own go-to resources in the comments!

A 6 Tip Starter Guide On Document Management

Document Management

Ask yourself, how much time do you spend looking for a single document? Could your file-managing habits use some improvements?

If you work on a computer every single day, it’s all too easy to drown in a pool of digital formats. You create presentations, write essays, analyze spreadsheets, and edit images.

And at one point or another it all gets saved and stored, proving at the same time that document management is behind almost everything we do electronically.

If you need a few quick fix tips, we put together a guide on some basics to keep in mind which can help improve any digital document routine.

1. Organize Email Attachments And Documents

This is a great place to start. Your email is a powerful tool which is unintentionally used as a document management tool, as well. You email files to yourself, use it to recover accidentally deleted files, send and forward files to others, and receive them yourself on a daily basis–all of which is easy. Digging them up, on the other hand, isn’t.

For situations like this, download your attachments in bulk with a tool like Mail Attachment Downloader by GearMage. Doing so can help you transfer and organize file attachments into your document system smoothly. It can extract and download email attachments from Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and other IMAP/POP accounts. Filter out file types, specify download location and other specifics.

2. Integrate Cloud Storage Into Your Routine

The web has grown into a cloud computing platform that makes everything accessible online. Yet cloud services can create more stress than they’re worth if you don’t plan out how you’ll be using them.

Uploading Files To Cloud

Upload files wisely by integrating them with your working habits. A few methods to consider:

  • For mobile work, automate your apps to upload files from your device straight to the cloud.
  • Use dedicated services for different formats. Cloud Player by Amazon, for instance, is one player that is dedicated to uploading music files.
  • Create a designated cloud folder “recycle bin” to download stuff you won’t need permanently. It will keep your local folders free of junk files.

3. Create A Nested Folder System

This tip is a must. A structured folder system is reflective of how you remember information. It can literally point you in the right direction with every level you click through.  All you need to do is make sure that your folders have a logical hierarchy.

Start off with a main folder. Then start creating sub-folders to filter out files like on-going work from finished work, current documents, documents for review or documents organized by year. The main thing to remember is to label folders according to your work process.

Saving Files

4. Use A Standard Naming Convention

Use consistent and logical file naming conventions. File names should include things like dates, document status, names–details that can pinpoint and categorize the file’s contents.

File names should be easily scannable, naturally ordered, and highly descriptive.  Some suggestions:

  • Make updated files stand out by using an underscore before the date.
  • Decide on the format such as dd-mm-yy or first name, last name.
  • Use a numbering scheme to keep large folders of files in order.
  • Don’t be cryptic with special characters, acronyms or generic terms. Chances are you won’t remember what they referred to later on.

5. Separate Your Files By Format

Sometimes file names won’t come to mind as easily as the format will. If this is the case with you, you may want to organize your files by format. If you use this method along with nested folders, it can be a faster way to find a file. You don’t have to re-sort or sift through a folder full of different file formats.

6. Archive And Delete Files Regularly

The worst part about creating documents is that they can quickly get outdated or obsolete especially with files created ad hoc. Set up a time frame for yourself to delete files regularly to keep them from piling up.

With the way file management and creation is constantly evolving, knowing just a few of your habits can go a long way to creating a document management system that works with you. What are some of your best practices?

 

6 Innovative Alternatives To The Traditional Business Plan

Business Plan Alternative
Got an idea you think the masses will love? Thinking of starting up your own business? You’re not the only one.

Competition is fierce and many ambitious individuals have the same vision of success as you do. And the best place to start beating the competition (after coming up with a killer idea) is with a well laid out business plan.

Now if you’ve looked into the topic, then you know that there’s a lot of debate on whether or not the traditional business plan is still effective. For budding entrepreneurs today, the business plan is outdated, overly complex and unnecessary. This leads us to ask the obvious question: If you still need to map out your business idea for others, where does this leave you?

If you’re looking to create a business plan that can impress investors, here are some modern ideas and innovative services you should consider.

Use A PowerPoint Slide Deck For Effective Pitch Meetings

PowerPoint has always been the tool of choice for presenting ideas. Why not use it for pitching your business?

Walking potential investors through a PowerPoint presentation on your iPad can be very effective. Take Tim Young, founder of Socialcast, for example. He used 5 slides for a business pitch in 2010 and managed to raise over 10 million in investment funds for 2 startups.

From his experience, he found that a presentation can help your pitch because “by sharing a screen and sitting in close proximity to each other, the environment naturally becomes more comfortable and relaxed.” Certainly an idea worth considering if you get nervous while presenting.

Create A Successful Business Model With LaunchBoard

With LaunchBoard, you can create, both simple or complex business models in no time. The tool is a perfect solution when you need to define your business and understand your customers. With several important features, such as analyzing data and deciding the best way to move forward, the tool has all the necessary options for any companies to succeed.

Business Model Tool

Image Source: LaunchBoard.io

You can track your team’s progress with an easy access to members KPI’s and the ability to get involved in every decision-making process. Discover and develop new market opportunities, brainstorm and test ideas, organize files quickly and make all information understandable to everyone.

Use A Lean Canvas For Concise Business Plans

Just because your business plan is short doesn’t mean it isn’t well thought out. When you create one with Lean Stack, you can boil down the essentials down to a one page blue print for quick at-a-glance reading.

One Page Business Model

Using a Lean Canvas is best for those situations where you’re making a pitch to investors who  have very little time and can’t go through all the nitty-gritty details. This is a paid service, but offers  free 30-day trials for both individual and team plans.

Grow Your Busines With StrategyzerBusiness Plan Strategy

 

Image Source: Strategyzer.com

With Strategyzer’s business model canvas, you are getting a platform and services that  understand their customers. The numbers speak for themselves — over 5 million active users. With Strategyzer you can easily create better products and quickly grow your business. Moreover, with this app, you can analyze any business idea and identify its market potential. It offers training options for the entire companies or simply one person.

Create  A Visual Business Plan With Pinterest

This idea may go against what you know about best business plan practices, but using Pinterest can be a creative way of visualizing your idea for others. In fact, Tim Berry, angel investor, business planner and entrepreneur, stands behind the idea.

According to him, a  business plan created with Pinterest is more accessible than a slide deck and is helpful in steering your business in the right direction. This method doesn’t describe your business; it focuses on the output of the plan.

As Tim Berry points out, “a business plan is worthwhile because of the decisions that result from it. If the Pinterest plan helps you organize a team and set the main points so you can move forward logically, why not?” I think that sums it up exactly.

Use Live Plan For Easy To Read Business Plans

Like the other suggested ideas, Live Plan tries to combine the serious nature of business plans with easy to read formats. It offers everything needed to keep your financials, business pitch and plan in check with an admin dashboard and support for team collaboration.


LivePlan Explainer from Palo Alto Software, Inc on Vimeo.

Live Plan makes it easy for you to forecast and prioritize the main financial elements of your business strategy like value propositions, key partnerships, cost structure and so on. This service is perfect for pitching a concise business plan investors and banks can instantly understand.

In this day and age, packaging and presenting your business plan effectively is becoming increasingly important if you want to stand out. Have you created a traditional business plan in the past? Which alternative would you use?

How To Create Secure PDF Documents In Two Different Ways

Here at Investintech, we care about your document productivity and we know that working with multiple documents can be a dreadful uphill battle. Because digital documents and PDFs are an essential part of your day to day work, your document processing routine and PDF tools always need to be updated. They need to be flexible and powerful enough to keep up with you.

This is why we included the features we did in Able2Extract 9. Though you know the PDF tool as Able2Extract PDF Converter, it has gone above and beyond that in this latest version. It can do a whole lot more now—and more conveniently.

Case in point: PDF creation. You may have given the main feature a  quick try, but there’s more to this feature than meets the eye. It can get the job of creating secure PDFs done in more ways than one.

Let’s take a closer look.

Method 1: Create PDF Files With Able2Extract 9

PDF creation within Able2Extract is just as simple as converting a PDF document. So if you’ve ever converted a PDF file with Able2Extract, then you already have a good idea of how to create one.

In other words, you get a new feature with a familiar set up, eliminating any high learning curves that can waste a good chunk of your time. From the command toolbar:

1. Click on the create PDF icon.

Creating PDF Files2. Open your file.

Opening File In Able2Extract

3. Go into the PDF Creation Options… menu and add your PDF security options. Here you can choose a number of settings for your PDF content. Click on OK.

PDF Creation Security Options
4. Then click on Save to complete the process.

Saving PDF In Able2Extract

 

Method 2: Create Secure PDFs From Your Everyday Applications

That’s just one method. However, if, like me, you prefer to stay in the application you’re working in, Able2Extract still has you covered. With the virtual printer, you can turn any application into a PDF creator.

Just print up your document as usual with the Print functionality, but choose Able2Extract 9.0 Printer instead:

Able2Extract Virtual Print Driver

Yet because you don’t need to open Able2Extract to create PDFs, you may be thinking that you’ll miss out on all the PDF creation options built into this latest version. Not so. This is where the print dispatcher comes into play.

Adjust Settings With The Print Dispatcher

Accessing Able2Extract Print DispatcherYou may have seen this icon lurking around on your system tray after installing Able2Extract.

The Print Dispatcher allows you to control all of your out-of-Able2Extract  PDF creation options.

When combined with the virtual print driver, you can create the same secure PDF just as easily.

On opening the Print Dispatcher, you get everything you need to stay on top of the PDF creation process:

Print Dispatcher Interface

By clicking on the Options… button, you can change the PDF creation settings for all PDF files created through the Able2Extract Print Driver, including the Security settings for each file.  

Selecting PDF Security Options

After your security options are set and your PDF is created, you can check in on your new file from the Print Dispatcher and interact with the file as needed.

Options For Opening PDF

Give the PDF creation feature a good spin if you haven’t already. This is just one of many new Able2Extract 9 features that let you get up close and personal with your PDF documents.

Get Ready For The Oscars With PDF Screenplays Of Your Favourite Movies

Excited about the Oscars? We’re right there with you. It’s always fun to watch and find out which actors and movies will form the 2015 Oscar-winning roster.

So in honour of the 87th Academy Awards and movies in general, we thought you’d enjoy a quick and highly related PDF resource. And we spotted out a great one for PDF movie scripts from Gointothesotry.blckst.com.

PDF Movie Scripts

Gointothestory.blckst.com is the official blog for The Blacklist, a network where script writers, buyers and representatives can connect. The blog was created by screenplay writer and script writing instructor, Scott Myers, whose credentials include the movies K-9 and Trojan War. He teaches script writing courses online, using the blog as a resource for his students and anyone who loves the art of movies and writing.

Go Into The Story has one webpage in particular dedicated to featuring a great selection of more than 80 PDF screenplays online, which, according to the site, are legal and free to download.

The screenplays are from recently acclaimed movies you’ve watched, if not, heard about. For instance, you’ll find the 2014 Oscars Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave, the popular hit Frozen, and movies that featured Oscar winning actors such as Dallas Buyers Club.

Moreover, there are screenplays fromthis year’s Oscar nominations for 2015. You can get a good look at the Oscar movie you’re vouching for in detail, line by line. Those already posted include, Into The Woods, The Theory of Everything, Still Alice, and Birdman. So be sure to check them out before the big day!

Enjoy.