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Tax Credits to Check with Your Accountant

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Now is the time to take advantage of a few tax breaks that expire as the decade comes to an end.   You will need to check with your financial advisor.   Below are three use-it-or-lose-it opportunities for tax breaks that might make sense for you and your company.

 

  • Paid Family and Medical Leave Tax Credit:

Employers with 50 or more employees are required by law (the Family and Medical Leave Act) to provide up to 12-weeks of time off for certain family matters. There is no law that says those weeks must be paid time off. If your company offers that time off paid, and that policy is in writing, you may be eligible for a federal tax credit so check with your accountant and determine if you are eligible to file. The amount of the credit, which is figured on IRS Form 8994, is a minimum of 12.5% of the paid leave amount up to a maximum of 25%.

 

  • Tax Credit for Electric Powered Vehicle:

This credit applies to plug-in electric vehicles and is calculated on IRS Form 8936. If the vehicle is purchased for business use, the tax credit is then part of the general business credit. This credit was designed to encourage people to purchase and use electric powered, clean-fuel, vehicles. The credit amount can be a maximum of $7,500. Certain vehicle manufacturer restrictions apply.

 

  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit:

This credit is a federal tax incentive to hire a person who falls within a targeted group (as defined by the tax law). This incentive only applies to people who fall within one of the 10 eligible groups (listed below with a link to the IRS site about it) and who begins work before January 1, 2020. The credit can range from $2,400 to $9,600 per hire.   The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is usually renewed each year.

 

The targeted groups are as follows:

  • Summer youth employees
  • Recipient of SNAP benefits (food stamps)
  • SSI recipient
  • Member of a family receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Qualified Veteran (there are 5 subcategories)
  • Qualified ex-felon
  • Designed community resident
  • Vocational rehabilitation referral
  • Long-term family assistance recipient
  • Long-term unemployed

 

In order to take advantage of this tax credit you will need to prove the employee falls within a targeted group and submit IRS Form 8850 to the state workforce agency within 28 days of the first day of that person’s employment with you. The basic credit for this is 40% of first year wages up to $6,000 (for a top credit of $2,400), as long as the employee works at least 400 hours. However, the credit for a veteran with a service-connected disability, who is employed for at least 6 months, is 40% of their wages up to $24,000 (for a top credit of $9,600). Not only is it the right thing to hire Veterans who make outstanding employees, but it makes financial sense.

 

If any of these three tax incentives are applicable for your business, jump on them now and discuss with your financial professional.

 

Creating Engaging Social Media Images : Part 2 of 2

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By Debbie Gregory.

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We all realize just how important it is to have top-quality, clean, clear, images as well as entertaining video or gifs to accompany our business messages. Part one of this blog article provided you eight very cool sites to help you create and share images, gifs, videos, templates, and more on your business social media accounts. These next eight free or inexpensive tools are ones you should also bookmark and consider using to create your next social media campaigns.

 

iStock

iStock is a collection of royalty-free photos, illustrations and videos. They offer a lot of great, less mainstream, items that can be collected into boards for easy retrieval or organization. Royalty-free doesn’t mean that the images are free however, this service does cost money to use.

 

Over

Over is a popular free mobile app (for phones only) that allows you to add text, overlays, and blend colors on images.

 

PicMonkey

PicMonkey offers easy-to-use tools to create attractive social posts, cover photos, ads, and more. Boasting over 6,000 graphics and textures, hundreds of fonts, thousands of design templates, and even collages. They currently do not offer a free version.

 

Piktochart

Piktochart is another place where you can create infographics, presentations, and printables. You can begin this service for free of charge as well, which allows you to create a limited number of items, or choose one of their paid packages.

 

Placeit

Placeit helps you generate mockups or demos of your website or product being used in real life as well as logos, videos, and other designs. They currently do not offer a free version.

 

Skitch

Skitch is an Apple-only mobile phone app that allows you to add comments to any visual. Basically you take a snapshot of your screen and use arrows, text, stickers, and a handful of other tools to make your point.

 

Stencil

Stencil is another image creation/editing site that has both free and paid options. They currently boast of over 2,100,000+ photos, 1,000,000+ icons and graphics, 100,000+ quotes, 2,500+ fonts, and 730+ templates that users can access.

 

Venngage

Venngage offers a large library of social-media-ready templates and has a great user-friendly editor that is easy for just about anyone to use. The site is free for all basic functions and also has a paid version with access to select features.

 

 

Words are great but a high-quality image will get noticed and shared more than text alone. Bookmark, download, and utilize these great tools to help your social media posts make more of an impact.

 

Creating Engaging Social Media Images : Part 1 of 2

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Millions of social media images are posted daily.   Unfortunately, very few of the images are interesting enough to make people to stop and notice them. Most of them go completely unnoticed often because the images are low-quality, unappealing, not worth sharing, too sales-pushy, or just plain boring.

 

As a business you need to stand out and grab people’s attention. If your posts aren’t captivating your customers, it is time to change what you are sharing. We have compiled a list of some of the most popular free or inexpensive online tools to help you build a library of quality images, gifs, videos, templates, and more to boost your business’ social game.

 

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock is a huge marketplace for stock imagery. They currently have a collection of over 90 million high-quality assets that you can choose from including photos, illustrations, videos, and templates. They offer a free pack of items when you sign up, however, there are fees to use the Adobe collection.

 

BeFunky

BeFunky offers a lot of graphics tools, layouts, and templates for just about any need. You can get 125 effects for free or sign up and pay for access to their entire library of high-resolution image effects and templates.

 

Canva

Canva is pretty versatile and offers preset image sizes and ready-made layouts for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest which adhere to their specific size guidelines. You can also use it for larger projects as well. They offer both a free limited version and a subscription version that provides you many more features.

 

Creative Market

Creative Market offers fully finished and ready to post graphics, fonts, website themes, photos, mockups, and a lot more. Everything has been assembled from tens-of-thousands of independent creators that submit new designs on a regular basis. They do offer some of their creations for free, six new free items every week, but most of their downloads cost money.

 

Easel.ly

Easel.ly is a source for infographics and reports; including charts, maps, graphics, and dashboards. They offer a much different set of visuals than either Infogram or Piktochart (both discussed below). You can start for free or choose their paid option.

 

Giphy

Giphy is a giant, growing collection of free animated gifs that are great for adding some movement to enhance your social posts. Motion makes things more memorable and posts with video or gifs are more likely to be shared.

 

Hootsuite Composer

Hootsuite Composer is a social media image editor and library that helps you create and prepare images that are appropriate to post across different social networks. Composer is a feature within Hootsuite that provides you access to a large library of images to enhance your posts with all of the usual functions including resize, crop, rotate, transform, filters, and more. You can even add your own logo. It comes with whichever Hootsuite package you’ve signed up for.

 

Infogram

Infogram is a great source for infographics and reports; including charts, maps, graphics, and dashboards. You can start for free which allows you to create a limited number of items or choose one of their paid packages.

 

The second part of this article will provide you eight more free or inexpensive tools you should consider using to create better social images.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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The event will be held on May 5, 2020.

 

The El Paso Community College’s Contract Opportunities Center is excited to announce that it will once again host its Procurement and Contracting Symposium (PCS) and it will be held at the Centennial Banquet & Conference Center, 11199 Sergeant E. Churchill, Fort Bliss, TX.

 

PCS has historically been considered one of Far West Texas and Southern New Mexico’s premier networking event and has been supported by agencies of federal, state and local governments, and their prime contractors.

 

In planning the event, the objectives are to provide a venue where buyers, contractors, suppliers and providers can come together and begin developing relationships; to provide excellent training opportunities from national, renowned trainers for vendors currently engaged, and those seeking guidance in government contracting; and to provide information to potential government contractors and the regional business community.

 

The following organizations and individuals should plan on attending this event:

  • Representatives of federal, state or local government agencies seeking to extend or continue outreach activities in the region.
  • Prime contractors seeking to identify potential subcontractors, teaming and joint venture partners.
  • Small business firms wishing to network with federal, state or local government representatives, prime contractors and other firms.
  • Individuals interested in taking advantage of training sessions on hot topics relevant to federal, state or local government contracting.
  • Representatives of firms interested in upcoming forecasted projects.

 

Sponsorship opportunities will be available for businesses seeking to highlight and market their firms to symposium attendees.

 

Booths will be available for federal, state or local government agencies, and vendors interested in personal and interactive market research opportunities as well as the opportunity to conduct a training workshop or present on forecasted projects, if interested.

 

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & REGISTRATION PLEASE VISIT:

www.elpasococ-events.org/conference

 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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Our last blog article discussed asking for testimonials, making it easy for people to get in touch with you, and how important it is to provide excellent customer service. Moving forward, we will discuss the importance of engaging people on social media, monitoring your online reputation, maintaining a positive image both in person and online, and how making donations that will improve your business reputation.

 

Engage People on Social Media:

Social media is important. The challenge is to get people talking about your business. Social Media is an excellent method to use for customers to talk positively your business. Ask people for their opinions, reviews, and thoughts. Remember that social media is an active conversion and respond in a timely manner.

 

Actively Monitor Your Online Reputation:

As you spend time actively engaging customers or potential customers online, it is important to monitor what is said about your business and what platforms that you are being talked about.  You can do the searches yourself to see who is talking about you and what they are saying or you can utilize online reputation monitoring tools to help. Some tools you can use are:

 

Maintain a Positive Image:

As a small business you are never off the clock. You need to work hard to maintain a professional, helpful, and friendly appearance at all times; especially if you drive a vehicle with your company logo or are wearing company branded clothing. Your behavior in public, when not directly in front of customers, can affect how people view your business.

 

Clean and Pleasant – In Person or Online:

This one goes hand in hand with the past point – your office, vehicles, attire, and online presence all must match the atmosphere and brand of your business. You want people to have their best experiences working with you. You want them to view you and your business as experts in your field that are professionals who are approachable, helpful, friendly, and clean. Would you want to eat in a dirty or see the chef with a crusty, dirty apron and dirty hands? You would only NOT eat there; you would tell everyone what you experienced. It works the same with positives.

 

Obtain Positive Publicity & Contribute Visibly to Your Community:

As a small business, it makes sense to invest in your local community. It helps both your community and helps your business grow.  Contributing brings your business front and center in the minds people’s minds of those who may need for your products or services. These contributions not only enable you to do good and be part of your community, but they provide your business high visibility and very positive word of mouth    from supporters. It improves the reputation of your company and is very good for business. Consider donating your time or money to things such as:

  • Contributing financially to a local charity
  • Participating in holiday charity events
  • Sponsoring local tournaments, school sports, or other competitions
  • Sponsoring community or charitable events
  • Joining a public board of directors
  • Working with community organizations
  • Donating time to city council committees

 

Provide Free Public Lessons or Seminars:

This can take more time to plan and execute properly but giving away your time at very public events provides an opportunity to showcase your expertise and gain positive publicity.  It also sets you up as an expert in your field.

 

 

Word of mouth happens whether you pay attention to it or not. It is such a powerful marketing tool that you would be remiss to ignore it and allow it to flourish without your guiding hand. Take the time to tune into to what people are saying about your business and help them spread positive words about you, you won’t regret it.

 

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