All posts in "Misc"

5 Steps to Getting Your Business Online

Published January 6, 2008 in Misc - 0 Comments

Here’s what you need to get your business online:

1. Domain name.

Your domain name is your “address” on the internet. If you’re looking for some general guidelines for choosing a domain, I believe that domain names should be:

  • Easy to spell
  • Easy to say and be understood over the phone
  • Memorable
  • Descriptive of your product or service (this includes, in most cases, choosing a .com name if you’re a business)
  • Reasonable length

Domain names can be purchased for under $10 per year.

2.  Webhost and email services.

Next, you need a place to store your website. Often the same company will handle your email for you, though you can set your system up so that different companies “host” your website and email if your needs require it.

3. Build and maintain your website.

Once you purchase your domain name and webhosting, you need to actually build your site. This is commonly done with a special software program. Included on your website will be:

  • The actual text of whatever you want to communicate
  • Graphics to make your site more attractive to read
  • The “code” (HTML, PHP, etc) to make it all work together
  • Any non-text content you wish to provide for streaming or downloading (audio, video, forms, documents)

To get people coming back to your site, you will want to update it frequently.

4. Tell the world about your site.

You should have a marketing strategy to get the most exposure to your site. You should promote it online and offline.

Online promotion methods include:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Directory listings
  • Posting comments on relevant blogs

Offline methods would include referring to your site in your newspaper, direct mail, radio, or TV advertising.

5. Email marketing.

This is a separate category of marketing but ties in nicely with your website. Here’s how it works:

You maintain one or more “lists” of prospects and customers that are interested in a certain subject. Email marketing allows you to send messages out to many readers at once, and you can even deliver a series of training or information messages at any interval you choose (every day, every 2 days, or whatever you decide).

Alternative Minimum Tax Debacle

Published December 30, 2007 in Misc - 0 Comments

This was posted on the IRS site a few days ago:

IR-2007-209, Dec. 27, 2007

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that the upcoming tax season is expected to start on time for everyone except certain taxpayers potentially affected by late enactment of the Alternative Minimum Tax “patch.”

Following extensive work in recent weeks, the IRS expects to be able to begin processing returns for the vast majority of taxpayers in mid-January. However, as many as 13.5 million taxpayers using five forms related to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) legislation will have to wait to file tax returns until the IRS completes the reprogramming of its systems for the new law.

The IRS has targeted Feb. 11, as the potential starting date for taxpayers to begin submitting the five AMT-related returns affected by the legislation. The February date allows the IRS enough time to update and test its systems to accommodate the AMT changes without major disruptions to other operations related to the tax season. As the IRS has said previously, it will take approximately seven weeks after the AMT patch was approved to update IRS processing systems completely.

Although as many as 13.5 million taxpayers will not be able to file their returns until Feb. 11, the effect of the delay may be lessened by the fact that under previous filing patterns only between 3 million to 4 million taxpayers file returns with the five affected forms during these early weeks in the filing season.

“We regret the inconvenience the delay will mean for millions of early tax filers, especially those expecting a refund,” said Linda Stiff, Acting IRS Commissioner. “We’ve taken extraordinary steps to figure out a way that we can start the filing season on time for most taxpayers, including some using AMT-related forms. Our goal has always been to make sure we can accurately process tax returns while getting refunds to taxpayers as quickly as possible.”

The February delay caused by the AMT patch will affect taxpayers using any of these five forms:

  • Form 8863, Education Credits.
  • Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits.
  • Form 1040A’s Schedule 2, Child and Dependent Care Expenses for Form 1040A Filers.
  • Form 8396, Mortgage Interest Credit.
  • Form 8859, District of Columbia First-Time Homebuyer Credit.

While these five forms require significant additional reprogramming due to the AMT patch, the IRS has been able to reprogram its systems to begin processing seven other AMT-related forms, including Form 6251, Alternative Minimum Tax – Individuals. Taxpayers filing these seven forms should not experience delays in filing, and the IRS expects to begin processing those returns starting on Jan. 14.

Electronic returns involving those five forms will not be accepted until systems are updated in February; similarly, paper filers should wait to file as well. All other e-file and paper returns will be accepted starting in January. The IRS urges affected taxpayers to file electronically in order to reduce wait times for their refunds. E-file with direct deposit gets refunds in as little as 10 days, while paper returns take four to six weeks.

“E-file is a great option for everyone, especially if they are affected by the AMT,” said Richard Spires, IRS Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support. “Filing electronically will get people their refunds faster, and e-file greatly reduces the chances for making an error on the AMT or other tax issues.”

In addition to filing electronically, the IRS urges taxpayers to take simple steps to avoid problems:

  • Taxpayers filing electronically should make sure to update their tax software in order to get the latest AMT updates.
  • Taxpayers with $54,000 or less in Adjusted Gross Income can use Free File to electronically file their returns for free. Free File will only be available by visiting the official IRS web site at IRS.gov. In all, 90 million taxpayers qualify for this free service.
  • Taxpayers who use tax software to print out paper copies of tax forms should make sure they update their software before printing out forms. Taxpayers using paper forms can also visit IRS.gov to get updated copies of AMT forms.

The IRS has created a special section on IRS.gov to provide taxpayers with additional information and copies of updated forms affected by the AMT. In recent days, the IRS has posted updated copies of all forms affected by the late enactment of the AMT patch by Congress.

The IRS also reminds taxpayers that printed tax packages, which will begin arriving in the mail around New Year’s, went to the printer in November before the AMT changes were enacted. The packages reflect the law in effect at the time of printing. The tax packages include cautionary language to taxpayers that late legislation was pending.

The IRS is also working closely with tax professionals and the tax preparation software community to make sure they can help taxpayers with all of the latest developments on the enactment of the AMT patch and other tax changes.

“The IRS is going to continue to do everything it can to make this a fully successful filing season for the nation’s taxpayers,” Stiff said. “We will continue to work to keep taxpayers up to date and make this situation as easy as possible for everyone.”

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=176948,00.html

There’s much hue and cry in the blogosphere that Congress should actually fix the AMT problem instead of worrying about whether NFL games are shown on cable or not.

I have to agree… when are we actually going to enact a permanent fix rather than applying a bandaid every year?

The AMT was enacted in 1969 in order to address 155 families which seemed to be taking unfair advantage of tax loopholes. Now, if the patch were not adopted, the AMT would affect something like 11% of all taxpayers.

What is an Expert?

Published November 5, 2007 in Misc - 0 Comments

What makes an expert?

Is it a first rate education? Certification by the powers that be?

Or…?

In one of our regional news-magazines, there appeared an article over ten years ago about a man named Wes Wagner.

(The magazine is Ruralite, June 1997, and the article’s title is “A Devotion to Perfection” by Mario Milosevic).

Mr. Wagner began inventing cool little gadgets at an early age, earning his first sale at age 6.

He later (during his high school years, as far as I can surmise from the article) decided to become a tool and die craftsman. He attended college for a year, but it was too “slow” for him.

He says that education is necessary, but those who are truly motivated have no time for formal education.

Here is his perspective on education:

“The difference between a novice and an expert is 90 days”, he says. “Ninety days of intensive study. If you devote yourself to studying a subject day and night for ninety days, you will become an expert.”

Using this model, Mr. Wagner developed his own street sweeping technology, and built his own business manufacturing aluminum sleeves for the aircraft industry. In fact, as of the date the original article was written, he was one of only three manufacturers in the world who create these items.

I’m going to see if Mr. Wagner is still around; he would be 86 today. He lived and worked not far from my home.

What an inspiration!

Sue Riek, RIP

Published September 17, 2007 in Misc - 0 Comments

I met Sue at the Stephen Beck’s Familyebiz Expo in San Antonio last February.

Sadly, she passed away unexpectedly; this following video was made two weeks before:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7736794526912688104&hl=en

It’s around two minutes, and you’ll hear a great story from Sue and Dave Lakhani.

In moments like these, I’m reminded of the brevity of life. Tell someone close to you that you love them, ok? Don’t wait until tomorrow.

Two Million Homeschoolers in U.S.

Published June 23, 2006 in Misc - 0 Comments

From the HSDLA web site:

How many children are homeschooled in the United States?

“There were an estimated 1,700,000 to 2,100,000 children (grades K-12) home educated during 2002-2003 in the United States. Homeschooling appears to still be the fastest-growing form of education.” – Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., Facts on Homeschoooling *
*Home education has constantly grown over the last two decades. The growth rate is 7% to 15% per year, according to Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute (Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling).

How many high school (grades 9-12) students are being homeschooled?

An estimated 250,000 to 340,000 high school (grades 9-12) students were being homeschooled during the 2000-2001 conventional school year.
How many children are homeschooled internationally?

Numbers are hard to come by in some nations. But home education is on the rise in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Japan.
According to Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute in his recent book, “Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling,” there were an estimated 50,000 to 95,000 students homeschooled in Canada during the 2000-2001 school year. Estimates for England and Wales varied widely from 13,000 to 50,000. Australian figures were in the range of 35,000 to 55,000. And one homeschool organization in Germany reported between 500 and 600 homeschooled students.
In addition to these, there are many who homeschool while serving as missionaries, military, or employees of the U.S. State Department overseas.
Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling, B. Ray, PhD ©2002. http://www.nheri.org

For more information, see www.hslda.org