Do you qualify for Virginia’s Telework Tax Credit?

Last week we talked about five ways telecommuting can save your small business money. I promised there was another excellent way to save money for the small business in Virginia: Telework Tax Credit. Your ears perked up when I said tax credit, right? It’s February, and as a business owner you are finishing your financials from last year and assembling stacks of paperwork for your accountant. Did you know if you had expenses incurred during the 2013 tax year for teleworking and you had filed a Telework Expenses Tax Credit Reservation Application form (TEL-1) in the previous year, you could be eligible for a tax credit up to $50,000 to offset your Virginia tax liability?

Fat lot of good this does you now, right? But now you know and right now is when you begin to prepare for next year! The Telework Tax Credit has been extended through 2016. What do you need to know to take advantage of this refund?

What is the Telework Tax Credit?

The Telework tax Credit was designed to encourage employers in Virginia to reduce commuting to and from offices.

How can my business qualify?

You must submit a Telework Expenses Tax Credit Reservation Application Form (TEL-1) to the Virginia Department of Taxation. This would be submitted in 2014 for expenses incurred in 2015. There is a short window to submit the TEL-1. It is from September 1stto October 31st. The application is only one page, and it can even be faxed rather than mailed. It seems a long way off? It’s worth it! Keep reading!

What is the maximum tax credit possible?

After approval, you will be eligible for a tax credit of up $50,000, which consists of development, assessment and equipment expenses. What does it take to be approved? Your business will be required to have teleworking policies in place. Many businesses have looked at the possibility of allowing their employees to telework part-time and they have seen the potential for cutting their overhead but have balked at the initial start-up cost. This is your chance to eliminate the cost with a tax credit!

How can we help?

Let TMI assist you in getting your office ready to have streamlined communication, reduce your operating costs and increase your employee retention by offering teleworking opportunities. You can receive a credit for the assessment costs up to $20,000. After you have your business technology ready for employees to telecommute, then you will need to prepare your employees. An additional credit of up to $1,200 per employee is available to reduce the cost of setting up employees with the necessary hardware, software and telecommunications equipment. (Keep in mind this credit is only available to employees who are new to telework!)

 

There is one last document to send in after the year you qualify for the credit. It is called the Telework Expenses Tax Credit Confirmation Application (TEL-2). This is a reconciliation of the expenses you actually incurred for the Telework Program. You would need to file the TEL-2 by April 1st of the next year. The application is relatively simple. It is two pages long, and can be faxed or mailed in as well.

I’m not sure I want an IT company giving me tax advice.

Smart thinking. We don’t want to be offering up assistance outside our arena of expertise either. TMI is proud to be partnering with CPA Brian Wendroff at Wendroff & Associates, CPA in Arlington, VA, in order to bring you the expertise you need to ensure you make the most of this opportunity.

I encourage you to connect with TMI and let us help you assess your small business teleworking opportunities. Together with Wendroff & Associates, CPA, we can bring the future of your small business into the present and save you money. What could be better?

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Five Ways Telecommuting Can Save Your Business Money

Telecommuting is popular with employees. But what about small business owners? Let’s take a look at how telecommuting affects the bottom line.

How can offering telecommuting to your staff reduce costs?

  1. Employee retention: Employee turnover is a hidden cost of doing business. You can’t accurately predict the costs involved in training new employees nor can you gauge the potential lost revenue when a position remains vacant. Isn’t it an attractive option to try to redce your turnover? Many studies have shown that employees offered the option to work from home even part-time are more likely to stay put. The reduction in stress, the increased flexibility and the reduction to their commuting time all add up to make an employee more likely to stick with your company!
  2. Increased Productivity Establishing expectations for your employees that include measurable results instead of hours in the office will create an environment of success!
  3. Decreased Overhead If your staff moves towards a part-time telework schedule you may find that you don’t need as much office space as you have had previously. Reducing your square footage and your utilities can add up to huge savings!
  4. Expanded Pool of Potential Employees When you consider hiring employees for telecommuting you expand your potential talent pool. An applicant might be willing to travel a little further two days a week if the rest of the time they would be working remotely. If you are considering adding a full-time telecommuting position to your staff you can interview candidates from areas with significantly lower costs of living and potentially less competitive wages.
  5. Long term reduction of IT costs In order to get your business set up to offer telecommuting opportunities there will be some significant upfront cost. You will need to get your technology up to speed and establish a network that will support telework. (But you might be eligible for the Telework Tax Credit if you are a business in Virginia! Come back next week when I discuss this further.) Once you get set up for telework, however, you will be eliminating the daily wear and tear on your in-office technology. Printers, routers, telephones, office supplies all of these things will show a reduction in annual cost as time goes by.

 

Think about it. Could telecommuting save your small business money?

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Embracing Mobility

Mic Geoghegan has some input on the coming need to embrace mobility!

As Chief Technical Officer for TMI, a large part of my job is an attempt at seer-like visions of the future.  While most of the engineers at TMI are working on building, maintaining, and repairing systems of the present, I’m always looking for what’s next, what’s new, and what’s coming.  Generally I focus this down to the minutia, singular pieces of software or technology that TMI can look to incorporate or support, but as the cost of high speed internet and storage continue to drop, and as personal technology gains in sophistication, I am  forced to look at how the workplace will look in 5 years.

Traditionally the workplace as a physical edifice was a necessity.  Even in the computer age, all of your files, software, and servers were stored at your brick and mortar establishment, so working outside of that location was difficult, and left you working in, at best, a diminished capacity.  Complex systems using secure tunnels and remote desktops required constant support and maintenance, and most users at home had a lightweight computer, not designed for the heavy lifting of most office applications.  This is gone now, all of it.  Most end users have more powerful computers and higher speed internet than the bulk of offices.  Cloud based technology makes it not only simple, but generally seamless for users to work from anywhere, be it home, the airport, or halfway around the world.

So the question has to be asked, if the rigid adherence to location was a byproduct of technological restrictions, and the technological restrictions are removed, why do we still cling so tightly to the initial adherence?  As an IT Engineer with a smartphone (I carry a phablet), I often find myself working in the most unlikely of places.  I’ve rebooted servers while at dinner with my fiance, responded to customers using the voice recognition technology on my phone while driving, and configured systems while waiting at the mall.  The fact is that the modern office has to perceive the coming changes in technology and the impact that they will have on the workforce, and incorporate those changes.  Stubborn refusal to advance with technology is at best a stopgap, and the benefits of a flexible mobile system that empowers your workforce to be effective without the constraints of physical location far outweigh the administrative effort required to design or redesign a system that embraces mobility in the workplace.

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“Work is what we do, not where we go!”

Telecommuting, telework, work from home, remote employee these are words you’ve likely seen quite often lately.  What do they mean?  Twenty years ago when you saw the classified ad that read Work From Home! Big Money in just a few hours a week!! it meant that you’d probably be stuffing envelopes.  Ten years ago you might have seen an ad offering the possibility of telecommuting and it was likely that you’d be expected to set up a home office complete with a fax machine and a dedicated phone line.  You’d still be a slave to a desk but that desk would be in your house.

What does telecommuting or working from home look like now?  Well, to begin with, for many employees identifying as nomad employees it doesn’t look at all like working fromhome.  The modern remote employee is ready to work from anywhere.  With technology at our fingertips that can allow an employee remote access to a company’s network anywhere that they have internet service and the unlimited options for a conference call you may wonder why anyone is going in to the office at all.

 

Telecommuting is on the rise. In 2012 approximately 40% of working Americans believed that they could likely do some of their job from home.  The number of employees that work from home a few days a week continues to rise every year.  As technology gets more reliable and less expensive we can expect to see these numbers increase.

 

This month on the TMI blog we will be talking about telecommuting.  Should your small business consider allowing your employees more flex time and the option to telecommute?  What are the benefits to having employees telecommute?  If you, as an employer in Virginia, have any employees that work remotely how do you take advantage of the Telework Tax Credit?  We will have a special guest post from TMI Chief Technical Officer, Michael Geoghegan, about embracing mobility.

Do you have any questions about telecommuting?  Do you see any technological barriers in your particular field?  Let me know if you have any questions and I will be happy to address them this month.

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Does Your Business Need a Facebook Account?

In the late 1990s it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone ask “Do I need a website?”  Perhaps the true skeptic would even add in the disclaimer “I don’t even use the Internet!”

The web savvy among us would answer “Of course you need a website” and go on to point out that it doesn’t matter whether or not you use the Internet.  The better question is does your target demographic?

So, here we are in 2014 and you have a website.  You make sure you communicate via email with your clients.  You’ve even “gone green” and you send out e-mail blasts instead of postcards.  And then a well-meaning twenty-something says “Are you on Facebook?” and you are transported back to the late 1990s as you are wondering yet again “Do I need to be on Facebook?”

My opinion (and it might very well be worth what you paid for it since the Internet is changing faster than I can hit “publish”) is that you need “a presence.”  What’s a presence? If you think your target demographic might very well be Facebook users you want them to be able to find you if they look for you.  What you don’t want is to be found and have it appear that as though you have abandoned your page.  So, what do you do?

  1. Make a plan and stick to it.  Start small.  Create a Facebook page and spend some time creating a handful of post ideas. Save them in a document so you can pull from these ideas when your creative juices are running dry.  Don’t schedule a month at a time.  As tempting as this can be it is far too easy to accidentally offend your fans with a poorly timed update.
  2. Seek out other people in your industry and “like” their page. Watch what they do.
  3. Set a time limit.  Spend one hour on Mondays and an hour on Thursday afternoons.  Spend twenty minutes every morning. Whatever you decide set a limit and stick to it.  Facebook is a rabbit hole and if you’re not careful you can lose hours and hours!
  4. Link your Facebook page on your website and in your business email signature.
  5. Relax!  Facebook is about capturing the attention of your target demographic.  Very few businesses use Facebook as their main sales pitch. Let it be an auxiliary marketing tool and an opportunity to let the personality of your company shine through!

I’d be foolish not to mention TMI’s Facebook page, right?  C’mon… click through and say Hello! Feel free to leave your business Facebook page as a link in the comments!

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Five Steps to a Digital Detox

We have been talking this month about New Year’s resolutions. We have talked about fitness and health and productivity. But we haven’t talked about the one thing many of us are addicted to technology. It seems counterproductive for an IT company’s blog to tell you that you might need a digital detox, but the truth is that if you take the time to step away from tech as an addiction you might just get a chance to see the most efficient ways that you can use it! And afterall, that’s what we want here at TMI. We want your technology to work for you!

  1. Charge your phone and your computer in another room. This is the easiest way to start to dial back your tech time. When you get home go ahead and plug your phone in. But plug it in in another room. The physical distance you create between you and your phone will ease you into feeling like maybe you could actually take a break every now and then.
  2. Don’t get online until you start work. I don’t do my best thinking before a cup of coffee and a shower do you? So, what’s the point in scanning emails before your feet even hit the floor? If it isn’t reasonable for you to remove your email from your phone altogether (and for many of us it isn’t) just don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Take back your time. No one expects to hear from you at 6:15 a.m. So, go ahead and enjoy that first hour of your day. It’s yours unless you give it away.
  3. Get an alarm clock. Better than not checking your email in the morning don’t charge your phone in your bedroom! Get an alarm clock and turn your ringer up high. If there’s an emergency, someone will call you twice. You’ll wake up and go get your phone. Maybe if you don’t have your phone in your hand before your eyes are open you won’t be tempted to check your email!
  4. Disable the notifications on your phone.  You decide when you check Facebook or your email or your Twitter feed. The automatic reaching for the phone every time it flashes or beeps at you can stop. You just have to stop the flashing and the beeping. You’ll be surprised, if you only check in when you feel like it than your phone will be working for you instead of YOU working for your phone.
  5. Dive into your detox. So, you’re ready to take the plunge? Find a hobby that isn’t phone friendly and go for it. For me, an amateur triathlete, it is swimming. The first few times I left it in the locker room I compulsively checked my email one last time before I spun the dial on the locker. But now? Sometimes I can swim a mile, get a shower, grab my kiddo, drive home from the gym and eat lunch before I remember my phone is in my gym bag. You don’t have to swim. You could just walk your dog without your phone. Make some part of your life a phone-free zone. You won’t miss it. Eventually.

Still think you can’t possibly do even one of these things? You need more help than I can give you! Maybe you need to attend a Digital Detox workshop.

How do you unplug? Drop me a comment and I will reply next time I am in front of my computer!

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Increase Your Productivity in 2014

Earlier this week we talked about how to use apps on your smartphone to get moving and watch what you eat.  What if your New Year’s resolutions were about revamping or getting control of your personal and work-related productivity? Technology can help you there, too!  You are surely familiar with the numerous apps to create lists and reminders but what if you have difficulties managing your time?

30/30/30 is an app that lets you allot a specific amount of time to an activity.  You have a lunch meeting but you need to answer email, prepare a report and work on an estimate?  No problem.  Put your action items on the list with a specific amount of time and 30/30/30 will tell you when it is time to move on. I used this app the other morning and was amazed at how quickly I moved through actions when I knew I was on a timer.  Something about beating the clock kept me moving.  If you are prone to the occasional slow-poke morning this app might be for you.

Speaking of maximizing your time – is there an easier way to accidentally lose thirty minutes than Facebook?  Sit down at your desk with a hot cup of coffee ready to take on the day and before you know it you’re “liking” cat memes and looking at pictures of your neighbor’s European vacation.  Maybe Facebook isn’t your poison?  Perhaps you are known to troll certain flash sale websites for hours on end (gilt.com, zulily.com, etc.) The Google Chrome extension StrictWorkflow can put a stop to that.  Simply add the extension to your browser and set a timer.  Decide to work for thirty minutes and goof off for five. What happens when you try to go to any of the “restricted” sites during your work time?  A big, red tomato mocks you and reminds you that it isn’t play time!

The last app that I have found is for Android users.  Wonder how long it has been since you called your grandmother?  Take her word for it no more! (“So, nice to hear from you.  It’s been ages!”) With Stay Connected: NextCall for Android you can set reminders to call certain people or immediately access when you spoke last.  This can be handy for juggling the demands of your personal relationships and maybe even professional courtesies.  Want to make sure you check back in with a potential customer but you don’t want to seem pushy?  With a quick check you can confirm when you last touched base.

No matter what you have planned for 2014 – do yourself a favor.  Work smarter, not harder.  Let your technology work for you.  If you are certain that you aren’t making the most of your technical resources drop me a line at kelly.doherty@tmi.net and let me help you!

 

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How To Achieve Your Resolutions with Apps!

It’s been almost a week since you woke up on January 1 and thought “This is the first day of the rest of my life!” Right? Last week I talked about some of the technology that can help you achieve those new year’s resolutions and I promised I’d be back this week to talk about specific apps.

If you were planning on quitting smoking this year I have found two great apps that will track the number of days you don’t smoke, the number of cravings you resisted and the amount of money you have saved. QuitIt for iPhones and QuitSmoking for Android users both track these things and offer inspirational support as needed.

If you have resolved to be more mindful of your diet and exercise this year you have probably enjoyed this week. The first week of a fitness or diet program yields results! As we fill our bodies with water and veggies we quickly shed retained water and pounds. We feel a little lighter. The soreness in our bodies from our new workout regime is invigorating. But as time goes by the real work begins. How to keep it up? Make it a habit.

My favorite way to approach eating is not calorie counting and measuring but instead to learn about the food we put in our bodies. Finally, there’s an app to educate you on the food you eat Fooducate. Fooducate lets you scan a label and get back a grade. A food is an A+ or maybe a C-. Those granola bars that you have been grabbing instead of skipping breakfast what if you found out that were terrible for you and received a C-? Fooducatewill tell you what’s in the food you’re eating and offer healthier suggestions. The best way to turn your diet is around is with long-term healthy habits and Fooducate aims to teach you about the food you eat, not just help you count the calories. (Available for iPhone and Android phones.)

If you need a little extra motivation the app Pact might be just what you’re looking for. You make a pledge and set your own stakes. Pledge to go to the gym (through GPS verification) three times a week and have the folks at GymPact dock you $5 for every day you miss. What happens with that money? It gets split up among the users that met their goals. This year GymPact changed their name to Pact and offered you a chance to pledge to eat more fruits and vegetables (verified by an uploaded picture) or to track your food via the well known food app MyFitnessPal.
You won’t get rich with GymPact but I can speak from personal experience. I started logging my trips to the gym with GymPact last Spring. My six day a week workout habit earned me $75 in 2013. It won’t send me on vacation but it will pay a registration fee for a triathlon! I just pulled it out to my PayPal account (as you can see I have a balance of $1 right now!)

 

Perhaps you have pledged to have 2014 be the year you really get motivated in your personal and professional life. I will be back later this week to address apps and technology tricks to keep you on task in 2014!

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Happy New Year’s Eve from TMI!

New Year’s Eve is a chance to wipe the slate clean. Have you set a goal for 2014? Do you have a New Year’s Resolution? If you were lucky enough to receive a gadget this holiday season you might have the tools to meet your goals in your pocket!

Let’s take a look at some of the top tech gifts of 2013 that might also be useful in helping you meet your 2014 goals! The most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around fitness, quitting smoking and creating a budget.

Fitness: Whether we call it healthy habits or losing weight many of us have plans to get moving this January. The FitBit gadgets were a hit with holiday shoppers.  A fancy pedometer that lets you track your sleep and your activity might be all the push you need to keep moving.  Set a goal.  Watch your activity for a few days and see if you can double it the next week. If you need a bigger push maybe you got a fancy scale!  Lots of the newer scales can connect to your smartphone via bluetooth. Check out WiThings for the scale of your dreams! Is there such a thing? 

Smoking: The American Cancer Society reports there are approximately 50 million smokers in the US and that 60% of them are trying to quit. That is almost 30 million people trying to quit. Sadly, they also report that only 3% of those quitters succeed. What does it take to quit?  Resolve and a support system.  There isn’t a piece of technology that can give you resolve.  But support?  Have you forgotten that the smart phone in your pocket can make phone calls?  People still do that. If you are one of the millions of Americans quitting smoking this year get your phone out, close the Candy Crush app and call a friend.  Tell them that you’re quitting smoking.  Don’t be afraid to call them again in 48 hours and say “This is hard.”  If you still need support call 800-QUIT-NOW to be connected with your state’s Quit Smoking Hotline.  Put that new smartphone to good use.  
Budget: Did you get a new laptop or a tablet? If you did, the tools you need to succeed with your annual budget are in your hands! Online tools such as mint.com or budgettracker.com can give you all the info you need to get started. Last year I entered in to my second year as a mostly stay at home mom and the key to my staying at home has been our budget. How do I keep us on budget? I track everything.  Ignorance isn’t bliss when it comes to spending money. It’s easy to swing in to a local convenience store and grab a soda and a bag of m&ms. But if you do that three times a week and so does your partner you’re looking at almost $1600 in a year. Track your expenses for one month.

Identify one area of surplus spending and multiply that by twelve and you will be amazed. Give up soda and candy and take the entire family on vacation!

Leave me a comment. Let me know what you are resolving to do in 2014. Check back with me next week as I highlight some of the best apps for achieving these goals.

 

 

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TMI is Proud to Partner with NextGenNow

The holidays remind us all how good it feels to give. Living and working in the 21st century can be discouraging. Sitting behind our computer screens it is easy to feel disconnected and like it is next to impossible to make a difference. But then the holiday season is upon us and we are collecting toys for those in need and we are making one last donation to a charity of our choosing (even if it is under the advisement of our accountant) and we remember how great we feel when we take the time to connect and to give.

You don’t need to wait until the holidays come back around!! If you live or work in Arlington County and you are looking for a way to give back to your community NextGenNowmight be just what you are looking for. NextGenNow is a group of professionals looking to maximize their resources by pooling together. As a “young professional” you might not fit the profile for a philanthropist. But NextGenNow gives everyone the opportunity to achieve more through donations, volunteer time and spreading awareness.

TMI is proud to be partnered with NextGenNow. Our web division just completed their new website! Check it out!

 

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