Saturday, July 30, 2011

Compensation costs up in June

Compensation for civilian workers rose 0.7%, wages and salaries rose 0.4%, and benefit costs rose 1.3%, seasonally adjusted, from March to June 2011. Over the year, compensation rose 2.2%, wages and salaries 1.6%, and benefits 3.6%

Friday, July 29, 2011

Nonemployer Businesses, 2009

Annual report on businesses without paid employees in nearly 300 industries for the nation, states, counties and metropolitan areas. Most who own such businesses are self-employed and operate very small businesses (for example, real estate agents or beauticians) that may or may not be their primary source of income.

The number of nonemployer businesses...declined by more than 260,000 between 2008 and 2009 across the United States, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau...In 2009, there were 21.1 million nonemployer firms, a decrease of about 1.2 percent from 2008. This continues a decline first noted in 2008 — following the beginning of the recession at the end of 2007 — when the total number fell by more than 350,000 from a peak of 21.7 million firms in 2007.

“Nonemployer firms generate a small percentage of total U.S. business receipts, but they constitute the majority of U.S. businesses...”

Finding an online seminar

Someone asked me about finding an online seminar about a particular topic, and I found a couple that I had used before.

But then I came across; "Find best online seminars and webcasts by industry experts." A useful site for a variety of topics.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sales Tax Web File Update

From the state tax department:

Many businesses and tax practitioners used Sales Tax Web File for the first time in June 2011, in response to the recent mandate to web file quarterly returns. Close to 70% of the sales tax returns due on June 20 were filed electronically, a significant increase over 20% one year ago.

Some sales tax vendors and practitioners experienced difficulties filing or reaching a representative to assist them with the new web filing requirements. The tax folks apologize for the inconvenience. They are training additional staff to make sure that your calls are answered promptly in the future.

Although they'd prefer that all taxpayers use Sales Tax Web File, they know that some can't. Taxpayers who prepare their own returns without computers or who don't have broadband access aren't required to file online.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Price of Typos

Virginia Heffernan writes about the growing incidence of misspellings and errors in publishing. She supposes that the editorial process has sped up in recent years and involves more computers and fewer humans which explains why this may be. It is very annoying and distracting to be enjoying a book and finding the wrong form of a word used or to find spelling errors. Heffernan's article suggests that perhaps poor spellers think differently and should not be judged harshly. It also points out that poor spelling can actually hurt business beyond making a bad impression.

While the idea that sloppy spelling can sink whole businesses seems far-fetched, even casual bloggers recognize the imperative to spell well online. This is because search engines look for strings of characters in sequence, and if your site has misspellings, Google is less likely to list it at the top of search results. With misspellings, according to the tech site Geekosystem, “You aren’t going to get nearly as many hits as you deserve.” The imperative to spell correctly on the Web, and attract Google attention, means that even the lowliest content farmer will know that it’s i-before-e in “Bieber.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

IRS offering transitional relief for small revoked not-for-profit groups

Thanks to a comment in a previous post, I've discovered that the IRS is offering transitional relief for small revoked NFP groups. As the letter writer notes, "If you can honestly say there is still a need for your non-profit, and you feel you can muster the human and other resources needed to sustain it, don't pass up this opportunity to regain your tax exempt status."

Fill out a new exemption application and pay an IRS User Fee. But for organizations with annual gross receipts normally less than $50,000, the User Fee will be reduced to only $100 and reinstatement will be retroactive. The offer is only good through December 31, 2012. You can find the details here [PDF].

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

SBA Co-Hosts Webinar on Disaster Recovery Best Practices

WASHINGTON – Find out what business owners learned after nearly losing their companies to small scale disasters like a sprinkler system malfunction or catastrophic events like widespread flooding during a free webinar on July 19 hosted by Agility Recovery Solutions and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Agility Recovery CEO Bob Boyd will share real stories of entrepreneurs whose business continuity strategies emerged while recovering from major disasters. He’ll also outline some practical applications of disaster preparedness tips, focusing on the concept of not only putting a plan together, but testing it periodically.

SBA has partnered with Agility to offer business continuity strategies for entrepreneurs via their “PrepareMyBusiness” website. Visit to access previous webinars and for more preparedness tips.

Since 1953, the SBA has provided more than $48 billion in disaster recovery funds to 1.9 million homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes in the form of low-interest loans. To learn more about the disaster assistance program, visit

WHO: SBA, Agility Recovery Solutions
WHAT: “Disaster Recovery Best Practices & Lessons Learned” will be presented by Bob Boyd, CEO, Agility Recovery Solutions. A question and answer session will follow.
WHEN: Tuesday, July 19, 2011, from 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT
HOW: Space is limited. Register at

Contact: Carol Chastang (202) 205-6987
Advisory Number: MA11-14
Internet Address:

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms

From SBA Office of Advocacy[PDF].

"The annual cost of federal regulations in the United States increased to more than $1.75 trillion in 2008. Had every U.S. household paid an equal share of the federal regulatory burden, each would have owed $15,586 in 2008."

Check especially the chart on PDF page 60.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tax Department Policy on Manufacturer's Discounts Received Using Store Loyalty Cards

From NYS sales tax guidance

This memorandum describes the procedures that sellers should follow to properly disclose to customers that certain discounts received through store loyalty cards are manufacturer's discounts.

Many businesses use store loyalty cards to offer their customers incentives to shop frequently at their stores. These incentives often include discounts that are activated by scanning the customer's loyalty card at the cash register.

When these loyalty card discounts are given and the discounted item is subject to sales tax, the amount subject to sales tax generally depends on whether the discount reflects a manufacturer's discount or a store discount. If the store is reimbursed for the amount of the discount by the manufacturer, distributor or other third party, it is a manufacturer's discount. If the store receives no reimbursement from a third party for the amount of the discount given, it is a store discount.

Generally, when a customer purchases an item subject to sales tax and receives a manufacturer's discount, the amount subject to sales tax is the full price of the item before subtracting the discount. For store discounts, however, the amount subject to sales tax is the price of the item after the discount is applied...

In the case of a manufacturer's discount, the store must adequately disclose to the customer, at or before the time of purchase, that the discount the customer is receiving is a manufacturer's discount. This is to ensure that the customer is aware that the full purchase price is subject to sales tax. If the seller fails to adequately disclose this information to the customer...the seller must collect sales tax from the customer on the reduced price of the item. However, in this case, when the seller files its sales tax return it must still remit sales tax on the full price of the item before the discount. That is, the seller itself will be required to pay the sales tax on the amount of the manufacturer's discount.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

International Data Base

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts demographic and economic studies and strengthens statistical development around the world through technical assistance, training, and software products. For over 60 years, the Census Bureau has assisted in the collection, processing, analysis, dissemination, and use of statistics with counterpart governments in over 100 countries.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Hiring That Ex-Felon

A recent library inquiry about programs available to assist employers who want to hire former convicts got me to call Elaine Kost from the state Department of Labor.

She noted two programs that she described as underutilized:

"The Federal Bonding Program (FBP) was created as a job placement tool to assist at-risk job seekers. The purpose of the program is to provide fidelity bonding at no cost to a business for the first six months of employment for hard-to-place job applicants." The term "hard to place is not limited to ex-cons. Sometimes, an employer will perform a credit check on a potential employee and will balk because of a low score; the FBP could be used for this purpose as well.

"The The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is designed to promote the hiring of individuals who qualify as a member of a target group; individuals with barriers to employment. Federal tax credits are available for hiring the following groups under WOTC:

A. Qualified recipient of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
B. Qualified Veterans
C Qualified ex-felon hired no later than one year after conviction or release from prison
D. Disconnected Youth
E. Designated Community Residents ages 18 through 39
F. Qualified Vocational Rehabilitation Referral

Notable Reentry Legislation

Article 23A, NYS Corrections Law
•Employers & occupational licensing agencies in N.Y.S. have the right to ask about ALL past convictions. It is not limited to criminal convictions.
•In N.Y. this includes all misdemeanors & felonies.
•Employers have the right to ask for a “Certificate of Disposition” from the court of conviction.
•Employers and licensing agencies must look at the specific duties and responsibilities related to the employment or license sought.
•The bearing the criminal offense will have on the ability to perform one or more job duties.
•Time that has elapsed since the criminal offense.
•Age at the time of the offense.
•Seriousness of the offense.
•Information regarding rehabilitation and good conduct (i.e. Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or Good Conduct).
•Protection of private property, safety and welfare of individual's and the general public.
•There must be a direct relationship from the nature of the crime of conviction which would have a direct bearing on the ability to perform one or more job duties.
•Job seekers have the right to ask for the reason they were not hired or fired.
•The employer has 30 days to respond to this request in writing.
•Enforcement falls to the Division of Human Rights.

The Employer Education Act 2008
•The Employer Education Act requires employers and potential employers to include a copy of Article 23A when providing a consumer report containing criminal conviction information to a third party.
•Requires the posting of Article 23A in various places of employment.

Negligent Hiring Protection
•Legislation became effective 2008
•Provides some level of protection from negligent hiring lawsuits for an employer who complies with Article 23A.
•If the employer exercises due diligence when hiring an ex-offender, the law establishes a rebuttable presumption in favor of excluding from evidence the prior incarceration or conviction.

The Montgomery Law 2008
•Lifts the discretionary ban on occupational licenses for individuals with criminal backgrounds.
•Individuals will no longer be arbitrarily denied a license to barber or practice cosmetology solely because of a criminal conviction, as well as other licensed occupations.

U.S. Employer Firms Show Declines in Number of Establishments, Employees in 2009

From the Census Bureau

In 2009, businesses with paid employees numbered 7.4 million, a decline of 168,000 establishments from 2008, marking the second consecutive year of decline, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Further, between 2008 and 2009, employment dropped 5.3 percent, a decrease of more than 6 million employees, for a total of 114,509,626.

In 2008, the number of establishments decreased by about 104,000, although the number of employees increased by almost 300,000.

These findings are from County Business Patterns: 2009, which provides the only detailed annual information on the number of establishments, employees, and first-quarter and annual payroll for most of the 1,100 industries covered at the national, state and county levels.

The statistics are broken down according to employment-size classes (for example, number of establishments with one to four employees) and legal form of organization (for example, corporations and partnerships).