Friday, March 29, 2019

Half of Consumers Plan to Save Tax Refunds — Can Retailers Change Their Minds?

By Lucy Koch
From eMarketer

Most US consumers expect to get a tax refund this year, and they plan to stick their windfall in the piggy bank.

A February 2019 survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF) showed that nearly two in three US adults said that they expected a tax refund this year, and half of those respondents said they planned to save it. That was in line with trends the NRF has seen since 2012, when plans to save became more common than paying down debt.

Consumers’ reasons for saving varied—40.4% of respondents to the Valassis survey said that they planned to put their refund toward an emergency fund, while others were saving for bigger-ticket purchases like home improvements or furnishings (19.1%), vacations or experiences (15.2%) or a car purchase or auto-related expense (8.7%).

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Understanding Economic Nexus: sales tax compliance

From Avalara
Understanding where your company has nexus is an integral part of your sales tax compliance strategy because nexus dictates where your business is required to collect and remit tax. There are a lot of business activities that can cause your business to have nexus, but one is getting a lot of attention from states right now because it was at the forefront of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.

Sales tax nexus is the connection between a seller and a state that requires the seller to collect and remit tax on sales made in that state. Historically, nexus was based on physical presence. After the Wayfair decision, nexus can now also be established based on economic activity.

If you have sales tax nexus in California and Texas, for example, you must collect and remit sales tax in California and Texas. Unfortunately, you can’t just figure out where you have nexus today and forget about it — you must closely monitor nexus on an ongoing basis because it's constantly changing, and the business activities that can trigger nexus for your business vary from state to state.

Also watch Wayfair and Sales Tax: What do Marketplace Sellers Really Need to Know?? (March 14, 2019)

Monday, March 25, 2019

Laws Could Stand in Way of Cashless Retailers

Article by Lucy Koch
From eMarketer

Earlier this month, Philadelphia passed a bill rendering cashless stores like Amazon Go and Sweetgreen illegal and banning future establishments from completely abandoning cash.

By July 2019, most retailers in the city will be required to offer consumers a cash payment option...

“The number of completely cashless businesses are few and far between, and research has shown that cash is still a preferred payment method for many shoppers in the US,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst Cindy Liu.

An October 2018 survey from Pew Research Center showed that 70% of US adults used cash last year for at least some of their purchases during a typical week.

Separately, 60% of US internet users polled by Cardtronics said that cash was the most available payment method for everyone, and another 90% viewed cash as essential to those without checking or savings accounts.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Now you can shop, buy stuff on Instagram without leaving the app

From Fast Company

Facebook’s Instagram photo-sharing app has become a hotspot for brands, and a hotspot for consumers who want a sort of digital window shopping experience. Today, Instagram sweetened the deal by adding a checkout feature to the app so users can buy stuff they see in their feed without ever having to leave Instagram...

Instagram says its users have been sending strong signals that they want to be able to shop inside the app. The company says 80% of its users actively follow a brand or brands on Instagram. And 130 million users are interacting with shopping posts on Instagram every month, Instagram product management lead Ashley Yuki told me. “We started building this last year, but before we even did anything people were trying to shop for products on Instagram,” she said.

The on-Instagram checkout feature is currently a closed beta, so only a small group of 20 brands will get it at first. They include Adidas, Burberry, H&M, Micheal Kors, Nike, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Revolve, Warby Parker, Zara, and others. After the beta, Instagram will expand the service to more brands (and more types of brands).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

U.S. Citizens Will Need to Register to Travel to Parts of Europe Starting in 2021

By Lyndsey Matthews
The rules are about to change. Starting on January 1, 2021, all U.S. citizens who want to travel to the 26 members of Europe’s Schengen Zone will need to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) or risk being turned away at the border.

The new travel authorization applies to those entering any member country of Europe’s Schengen Zone. Currently, that includes 22 countries that are also members of the EU, four non-EU countries, plus three European micro-states. That means that you’ll need to register starting in 2021 to enter Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The micro-states of San Marino, Vatican City, and Monaco will also require the registering.

Through an online system on, a travel agency not affiliated with the European government, you should be able to book last-minute trips to Europe. To apply, you’ll need a valid passport, an email address, and a debit or credit card to pay the nonrefundable €7 application fee (there are no other fees associated with the program). After you fill out your application online with the personal information on your passport, and answer a series of security and health-related questions, it should be approved and sent to your email address within a few hours after it is checked across security databases like Interpol and Europol. While children under the age of 18 will be required to have an ETIAS, they will not be charged the application fee.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Rise in Self-Employed Challenges the Common Wisdom

By Andrew W. Hait, a survey statistician/economist at the Census Bureau.
From the Census Bureau

If you think a business is a brick-and-mortar place of work with employees and managers who have benefits and paid time off, think again.

The latest data show that more than three-fourths of U.S. businesses may be run out of someone’s home and have zero employees.

The rise in the number of self-employed has altered what people believe a business is.

Last October, the U.S. Census Bureau released a new report that combines the data published on employer businesses with data on businesses without paid employees, or “Nonemployers.” This report challenges the common wisdom of just what is a business, how important are each of these two types of businesses, and how this definition and importance has changed.

How Businesses Have Changed

Traditionally, businesses are brick-and-mortar enterprises that have paid employees. They have staff who manage these employees and often provide benefits for them, including employer-sponsored health care and paid time off. They pay unemployment insurance taxes for their workers.

They are the nearly 7.8 million establishments covered by the County Business Patterns program. In 2016, these businesses employed almost 127 million people, and reported just over $6.4 trillion in annual payroll, or about $50,769 per employee.

But what about self-employed people? How prevalent are they, and how important are they to our local economy?

According to the Nonemployer Statistics program, there were almost 25 million nonemployer businesses in 2016, accounting for more than 76.2 percent of all businesses. These are businesses with no paid employees and are subject to federal income tax. Most nonemployers are self-employed individuals operating sole proprietorships, which may or may not be the owner’s principle source of income.

They are present in nearly every sector of the U.S. economy, and are especially dominant in some industries.

For example, the 1.1 million nonemployer real estate leasing businesses account for 90.2 percent of the total number of businesses in this industry.

The number of self-employed businesses is also growing at a faster rate than their employer counterparts.

Between 2012 and 2016, their numbers increased by more than 2 million, a 9.1 percent increase. In the same period, the number of employer businesses increased by 4.4 percent. The share of all businesses made up by these nonemployers also increased slightly, from 75.4 percent to 76.2 percent.

It’s important that the Census Bureau collects these data for both business types to recognize the value of both.

“States have difficulty measuring their nonemployer economy because they don’t pay into unemployment insurance,” said Ron Jarmin, deputy director and chief operating officer of the Census Bureau. “The Census Bureau’s nonemployer measurements provide states with valuable information on this critical part of the economy.”

The Self-Employed Can Earn More

If we assume that each of these nonemployer businesses has one person “employed” in the business, we can compare the share of the workers in an industry who work for employers compared to those who are self-employed.

For example, employer beauty salons had 435,796 employees in 2016 but there were 730,782 self-employed people in this industry — 62.6 percent of the total number who work in this industry.

If we compare the annual payroll per employee of the employer businesses to the revenue per nonemployer business, we see that these self-employed persons earn significantly more than employer workers.

For example, the nation’s 160,823 nonemployer doctor’s offices generated nearly $15.1 billion in revenue in 2016, or an average of $93,867 per business. The 2.5 million employees of employer doctor’s offices earned an average annual payroll of $87,198 in 2016.

It’s important to note that the revenue of nonemployers excludes an adjustment that would need to be made for expenses, and that the average payroll of employer doctor’s office includes workers other than just physicians, but this comparison is still interesting.

What's the Impact on Workers and Local Economies?

First, with technological advances across the nation, workers now have the capacity to utilize their skills to work as independent contractors.

These businesses can operate closer to their customers and the workers can minimize their costs by working out of their homes. Local economic development officials can not only look to getting that big employer business to move to their community but also to leverage the skills of their workforce via nonemployers.

Second, while it is likely that these nonemployer businesses do not offer the benefits that employers do, the average revenue of many of these businesses helps offset the difference. Also, these benefits often aren’t necessary if their spouse or partner has a job that provides benefits.

Finally, as industries strive to maximize their profits and operate as efficiently as possible, utilizing the unique benefits of self-employment is becoming increasingly important. Employers will continue to dominate some business types but nonemployers will continue to grow in others.

Where Can I Go to Learn More?

Comprehensive data on employer and nonemployer businesses are available in American FactFinder (AFF), the Census Bureau’s online database tool. AFF provides full access to all of the data from County Business Patterns and Nonemployer Statistics. The Census Business Builder data tool allows users to view key data from these two business types together to understand the share of these businesses by industry.

These data are only possible because businesses took the time to complete the various economic surveys and programs the Census Bureau conducts.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Employee or Independent Contractor? New Ruling Makes Sweeping Changes

By Linsey Knerl
From NAV

There was a time, not long ago, when businesses in every industry grew with the labor and talent of workers classified as independent contractors.

Even before the “gig economy” and “side hustles” were buzzed about (and companies like Lyft and Uber made them newsworthy) small businesses everywhere relied heavily on contract workers provide the bulk of their services. Hairdressers, construction workers, writers, and dog walkers were all classified as independent contractors with little to no challenge to their status, but all of that is changing.

A recent California Supreme Court ruling, along with a handful of state and local ordinances have made some strict interpretation of who can—and who can’t—be called a contractor. Washington state has even produced a "step by step guide" for businesses to classify and hire their workers with the appropriate classification. While the exact rules differ slightly from region to region, there is a common thread between them: fewer workers are now legally able to be paid as independent contractors...

If there is any takeaway here, it’s that everything we know about hiring independent contractors is changing. If you only hire a few 1099 workers to do jobs completely unrelated to your business (hiring a cleaning service to sweep up your barbershop, for example), you’ll probably be OK.

If you rely heavily on a team of skilled professionals who carry out the same services your business markets and sells (a team of writers for your publishing company), be ready for some of these changes to come to a neighborhood near you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What is #SBDC Day?

From America's SBDC

SBDC Day is a national, collective proclamation of the success and impact America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) have across the nation in economic development and the small businesses community. The third America’s SBDC Day will take place on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

SBDC Day will unite the nearly 1,000 SBDC centers across the country and the hundreds of thousands of clients they serve by sharing, in real time, the success stories and notable impacts SBDCs collectively have on the small business community at large.

This special day will be celebrated with social media campaigns, public relations initiatives, online and in-person events and more. To learn more about what your local SBDC is doing to celebrate, click on Find your local SBDC.

The SBDC Day Ambassador program is designed for organizations and businesses, to get involved in SBDC Day and show their support for the nation’s largest and most effective small business assistance network — SBDCs. To learn more, click here.

Monday, March 11, 2019

What to Say in Your 1, 5, 10, or 20 Minute Pitch

By Angelique O'Rourke

From Bplans

How much time you have to deliver a pitch to investors will have a big impact on how and what you’ll want to do and say.

If you’re giving five-minute presentation followed by a Q&A, you will approach that a little differently than if you’re giving a one-minute presentation!

So, how do you know what to include in a really short pitch? What about a 20-minute pitch? We’ve got you covered. In this article, I’ll [also] review tips from entrepreneurs who successfully pitched their businesses for funding.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Do you have a Business Mentor?

By Kathleen McShane
From the Small Business Administration

As a former small business owner and entrepreneur, I know first-hand the support, resources and access to networks and financing that entrepreneurs need.

While there are many businesses that experience success, the fact remains that only half of all small businesses survive more than five years; and about 10-12 percent of all employee-based firms close each year. There is growing evidence, however, that connecting a business with a mentor can change this statistic.

Having a mentor can change the playing field for a small business. Research has shown us that small businesses that receive mentoring early in the development of the business achieve higher revenues and increased business growth.

A survey by the UPS Store found that 70 percent of small businesses that received mentoring survived more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. The same survey found that 88 percent of business owners with a mentor said that having one was invaluable.

When Lorena Cantarovici first set her sights on entrepreneurship, she attended a workshop run by a SBA Denver Small Business Development Center that helped her develop her first business plan. Lorena’s love for hand-crafted empanadas turned into a thriving small business. Early on, she got counseling from the SBDC on accounting, marketing, legal issues and risk management. As demand soared, her business grew and she was able to move from a converted kitchen in her garage to a storefront.

Because starting a business can be overwhelming, a mentor can help to navigate the complex challenges that often come with being a business owner. There are many factors involved in business startup, from applying for licensing to securing financing. And those factors can have an impact on turning one’s passion into a profitable business.

Getting guidance from someone who has been there themselves as an entrepreneur or business owner can be an added asset. In addition, there are resources available to provide business owners with the knowledge and guidance that are key to business growth, development and survival.

Having a business mentor can yield many benefits and provide the expertise that you might not have. A mentor can help you avoid common pitfalls through their real-life experiences. And a mentor can help establish you as a lifelong learner.

The SBA’s experienced volunteer mentors can provide meaningful business advice, some at no cost. Lorena is a great example of entrepreneurship, and a symbol of the many ways the SBA supports entrepreneurs as they start and grow. She was even honored as the SBA’s Colorado Small Business Person of the Year in 2017.

There are several SBA resources in the community committed to making your small business a success. Working with a mentor or counselor from SCORE, a Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center or a Veterans Business Outreach Center can help with all aspects of starting, growing or expanding your business.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Is Scan-and-Go the Future of Retail?

By Rimma Kats

Cashierless stores, like Amazon Go, have great potential to shake up the brick-and-mortar landscape.

According to GPShopper, 48% of US internet users believe scan-and-go technology would make shopping easier.

And 43% would rather try scan-and-go than wait in a checkout line. Respondents said they'd be most interested in scanning groceries, home goods and fashion items.

Similar findings were reported by RIS News, which asked US digital buyers which new shopping options—ranging from drone delivery to augmented reality in-store—they would most like to use. Grab-and-go stores with self-checkout was the leading response, with 59% of respondents saying they’d use it.

But a world without cash, credit cards or even a mobile wallet isn’t here yet. Here’s what retailers need to know about how to get there.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Find out how to report IRS scams; learn how to protect yourself

IRS Imposter Scams

IRS imposter scams occur when someone contacts you pretending to work for the IRS. The imposter may contact you by phone, email, postal mail, or even a text message. There are two common types of scams:

Tax collection - You receive a phone call or letter, claiming that you owe taxes. They will demand that you pay the amount immediately often with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may even threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay.
Verification - You receive an email or text message that requires you to verify your personal information. The message often includes a hyperlink phrase "click here" or a button to a fraudulent form or website.

Report IRS Imposter Scams

Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) if you believe that an IRS imposter has contacted you. Report IRS imposter scams online or by calling TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484. Forward email messages that claim to be from the IRS to

Tips to Avoid IRS Imposter Scams

There are things to look out for to prevent being a victim of an IRS imposter scam.


Beware if someone calls claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS will always contact you by mail before calling you about unpaid taxes.
Ask a caller to provide their name and badge number and callback number. Then call TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. If the person legitimately is from the IRS, call them back. Otherwise report it to the IRS.
Become familiar with what fraudulent IRS email messages look like. Review a sample IRS phishing email.
Verify the number of the letter, form, or notice on the IRS website.
Be suspicious of threats. The IRS won’t threaten to have police arrest you for not paying a bill.

Don’t give in to demands to pay money immediately. Be especially suspicious of demands to wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card.
Don’t trust the name or phone number on a caller ID display that shows “IRS.” Scammers often change the name that shows on caller ID.
Don’t click on any links in email or text messages to verify your information.

Tax ID Theft

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You may not be aware of the problem until you E-file your tax return and find out that another return has already been filed using your Social Security number. If the IRS suspects tax ID theft, they will send a 5071C letter to the address on the federal tax return. Keep in mind, the IRS will never start contact with you by sending an email, text, or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. Watch out for IRS imposter scams, when someone contacts you saying they work for the IRS.

Report Tax ID Theft

If you suspect you have become a victim of tax ID theft—or the IRS sends you a letter or notice indicating a problem—take these steps:

File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at You can also call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 or TTY 1-866-653-4261.
Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
Experian: 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

Contact your financial institutions, and close any accounts opened without your permission or that show unusual activity.
Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided. If instructed, go to the IRS Identity Verification Service.
Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit (PDF, Download Adobe Reader); print, then mail or fax according to instructions.
Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
Check with your state tax agency to see what steps to take at the state level.

How to Protect Yourself

Follow these steps to prevent tax identity theft:

File your income taxes early in the season, before a thief can file taxes in your name. Also, Keep an eye out for any IRS letter or notice that states:

More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
You owe additional tax, you have had a tax refund offset, or you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.

Don’t reply to or click on any links in suspicious email, texts, and social media messages. Make sure to report anything suspicious to the IRS.
Understand the IRS 5071C Identity Verification Letter to Avoid Tax ID Theft
Tax ID theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to file taxes and claim a tax refund. If the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suspects tax ID theft has occurred, the agency will send a 5071C letter to the address on the federal tax return.

The 5071C letter is a legitimate letter from the IRS that provides instructions to verify that you submitted the tax return in question.

If you receive a 5071C letter, verify your identity on the IRS' secure Identity Verification Service website, or call the toll-free number listed in your letter. You will be asked a series of questions to verify your identity. You will also be asked to confirm whether or not you filed the federal tax return in question.

You will need the following documents to verify your identity when you access the website or call:

Your previous year's federal tax return
Your current year's federal tax return, if you've already filed it
Supporting documents from this year's federal tax return, such as Form W-2, Form 1099, and Schedules A and C
If you are a victim of state tax ID theft, contact your state's taxation department or comptroller's office about the next steps you need to take.

How to Report 5071C Letter Scams

Although the 5071C letter is a legitimate IRS document, some scammers may be aware of this verification method. It’s important to take steps to avoid tax scams and fraud. Remember, the IRS will never start contact with you by sending an email, text, or social media message that asks for personal or financial information.

If you receive a letter, notice, or form via paper mail or fax that you suspect is from someone pretending to be from the IRS, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or

How to Protect Yourself

Follow these steps to protect yourself from 5071C letter scams:

Look for the letter number in the upper corner of the page.

Don’t open email that claims to be a 5071C letter or claims to verify your tax return. The IRS does not send this letter or verify your identity via email.
Don't verify your information in response to a phone call. The IRS will not call you to verify this information, without having sent you the letter first.

Tax Transcript Email Scam

Scammers claiming to be from "IRS Online" are sending fraudulent email messages about tax transcripts. A transcript is a summary of your tax return. You may need a tax transcript to apply for a loan or for government assistance.

The scam works this way: you get an email with the words "tax transcripts" in the subject line. The email has an attachment named "Tax Account Transcript" or something similar. Don’t open this attachment. It’s malware known as Emotet that can infect your computer network and steal personal and business information.

The IRS will never call, email, or text you asking for your tax information. It will also not send you a message with an attachment asking you to log in to get a tax transcript or update your profile.

How to Protect Yourself and Report Tax Transcript Scams

Delete the email with the attachment or forward it to, if you’re on a personal computer.
Notify your technology office staff about the email if you’re on a work computer.
Don’t open the infected document because it contains malware.
Learn more from the IRS about the tax transcript scam.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Model Policy

From New York State:
Every employer in the New York State is required to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy. An employer that does not adopt the model policy must ensure that the policy that they adopt meets or exceeds the following minimum standards.

The policy must:

*prohibit sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights

*provide examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment

*include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws

*include a complaint form

*include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties

*inform employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially

*clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue

*clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful

New York State Labor Law requires all employers to adopt a sexual harassment policy that includes a complaint form for employees to report alleged incidents of sexual harassment.

Every employer in New York State is required to provide employees with sexual harassment prevention training. An employer that does not use the model training developed by the Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights must ensure that the training that they use meets or exceeds the following minimum standards. Model training materials are available to employers to download.

The training must:

*be interactive
*include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights

*include examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment

*include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment

*include information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints

*include information addressing conduct by supervisors and any additional responsibilities for such supervisors

Each employee must receive training on an annual basis, starting October 9, 2018.