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How to Change Your Business Name

How to Change Your Business NameLet’s face it: not everyone imagines that their small home-based business will outgrow their home and they local community. That’s why a name such as ‘Quick Hand Joe Home Improvements’ sounds adequate and even charming for your specific market. But what happens when your successful business starts growing and expanding? What if you want to add more services or develop more products? The first consequence is that your business name becomes obsolete or no longer appropriate.

“Well then, I’ll change my business name!” That’s easier said than done. Changing your business name has many implications – legal, banking, taxation and marketing. Many small businesses flop at the point of outgrowing their local community because they fail to communicate and promote the change properly to their existing customer base.

However, the main concern we will focus on in this article is making sure that you go by the book in relation to authorities and banks when you decided to change your business name. Here are the key steps you must go through:

1. Research Your Business Name
First things first, you must make sure that you can legally use the new business name – that it is not already used by another legal entity or subject to trademarks or other patents. You should perform this research both with your state and the federal trademark offices.

2. Change the Articles of Incorporation
Except for sole proprietorship, all forms of incorporations require this document – the Articles of Incorporation. Basically, this is where you set out the full description of your business: its name, the object of activity, the associates and their proportional participations to the share capital, etc.

In order to update the Articles of Incorporation with the new business name, you need to notify the Secretary of State in your jurisdiction. The entire procedure is hassle-free, you can do it online.

3. Notify the IRS of the New Business Name
The Internal Revenue Service has a very helpful web page which instructs you what types to forms you need to file, depending on the form of incorporation of your business. There are typically two types of procedures:
⦁ For a sole proprietorship or LLC with only one associate, you simply send a written notification to the IRS;
⦁ For S corporations and partnerships there are specific forms to be filled in, which can be submitted either at the same time as the tax return or at a specific moment when you want the name change to take effect.

Please note that in certain situations you may need a new EIN number.

4. Update Your Business Licenses and Permits
Once you have your new business name cleared and approved by state authorities, it is time to start updating your business permits. Depending on your industry and niche, you need a specific number of permits from various authorities. This usually involves notifying the offices which issued these documents of the new business name, accompanied by supporting documents.

5. Change Your Business Name Everywhere
You have no idea how many online and printed documents contain your business name at first sight! Contracts, marketing materials, social media and email accounts, stationery, business listings…all these need to be updated with your new business name. This is actually the most time-consuming and laborious part of the process, but it is extremely necessary: you want your old business name replaced everywhere with the new one in order not to confuse your customers.

Last, but not least, remember to start communicating this change to your customers ahead of time so that when the change takes place they can still recognize you and continue to do business with you.

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Top Company Policies Your Business Should Have in Writing

Top Company Policies Your Business Should Have in WritingIn the good old days business was done on a handshake and the given word. At the present, that method is no longer feasible. You need to have various policies in writing to make them legally binding for your employees or customers. After all, even the Romans, more than 2,000 years ago, had a saying stating that “words fly, the writing remains”.

Written policies are, first and foremost, the best defenses that your company can have against various claims and lawsuits. Imagine that there were no written rules about money back guarantees on online stores or no internal regulations at your old job. Chaos and mayhem would ensue, with everyone feeling entitled to sue or disobey verbal orders because “it isn’t written anywhere”.

As a small business owner, you need peace of mind and the opportunity to build your reputation, without the faintest sign of legal trouble attached to your business name. Therefore, you need to have the following policies in writing and to make them known to your employees or customers (as applicable):

1. Returns/Refund Policy
While you are striving to provide the best products or services to your customers, there will always be unhappy customers who will demand their money back. It is important to have a clear returns/refund policy in place in case a situation escalates and an angry customer threatens to take you to court.

It is important to follow federal and state laws concerning product returns and cancellations of subscriptions. But you should know your rights as a business and seller, and make sure you are not taken to the cleaners by an unreasonable client. This is where the written policy becomes your best friend – it is the written proof that the customer knew and agreed with your terms and conditions of doing business.

2. Employee Code of Conduct Policy
When you hire employees, whatever they say and do in relation to customers or authorities will reflect back on your business. This means that you need to lay down rules concerning how they dress, speak and act as representatives of your company, how far they are authorized to make promises or assertions concerning your business, etc.

A single employee with a bad attitude towards customers can ruin your business. A dishonest one, who uses your business for perpetrating illegal activities, will drag you and your business in long and damaging legal actions.

3. Workplace Health and Safety Policy
Accidents at work happen very frequently and most of the time they result in lawsuits against the employer to cover hospital bills and loss of income. Usually, insurances step in to pay up, but any insurance company requires businesses to have their workplace health and safety policy in a written format and known by all employees.

As improbable as it seems, every little do and don’t must be in writing, otherwise an employee may claim they had no idea they were not supposed to handle live electrical cables or anything similar.

4. Late Payment Policy
Some businesses issue invoices for their products or services, which are due within one month, in most cases. But what happens if your clients fail to pay their invoices on time? Surely, you are entitled to delay penalties. However, you cannot legally add a single cent to the payable amount unless you have a clear policy in place.

The customer must know at the moment of purchasing your products or engaging your services exactly how much you will charge for late payments. Proceeding with an order or signing the service agreement implies their acceptance of your late payment policy, as well.

5. Equal Opportunity Policy
Discrimination is ugly and illegal, and we are sure that you are certainly not going to discriminate any potential employee. But you should also have this policy in writing. We live in times when people may get the wrong idea quickly, feel disadvantaged and, yes, threaten to sue you.

As a final piece of advice, although you can find many templates of these policies on the internet, you should ask a lawyer to look over them and confirm that they are legal and applicable in your jurisdiction.

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Tax-Exempt Benefits for Your Employees

Tax-Exempt Benefits for Your EmployeesHere is something you may not know: there are perfectly legal ways to reward your employees without being subject to taxation. These benefits are highly valued by the people working for you so, by granting them, you are on the right path to building a loyal and enthusiastic team. It also gives you the opportunity to attract talented and skilled people who, based on the salary alone, would not be very willing to apply to your job ad.

As your company grows and needs more experienced people, you will find that cash in hand alone is not sufficient to make an offer they cannot resist. People value things which also ensure their future security, such as pensions and health plans. Money comes and goes and is subject to taxation, but certain benefits will prove useful in the long run.

You should always think twice before considering a cash bonus or a salary raise to keep your employees loyal to your business. In the end, you will have to withhold tax for it, or your employees will have to report it in their tax returns. Instead, consider one of these tax-exempt benefits:

1. Relocation Expenses Coverage
If your new hire needs to relocate from a different state or city with their entire family, it is a gesture of courtesy to contribute to their relocation expenses. The conditions for offering this bonus without reporting it in your tax filings as employee income are:
⦁ The workplace must be at least 50 miles away from the employee’s residence;
⦁ The employee must work for you a minimum of 39 weeks out of the first 12 months of employment.

2. Educational Assistance
Helping your employees further their education, stay up to date with the latest developments in their field of expertise and obtain certifications is a top priority for many companies. This helps businesses grow together with their employees, and allow them to retain talents trained and specialized within the company.

Also, you can spend up to $5,250 per employee per year (textbooks, tuition fees, exam fees) which are completely tax exempt, both for the company and for the employee.

3. Company Mobile Phones
While BYOD (bring your own device) has taken off and seems like a good idea, remember that you have limited control over the mobile phones belonging to employees. They could have vulnerable apps installed and expose your private data to the risk of leaking or hacking.

On the other hand, providing your employees with company mobile phones allows you greater control concerning the usage of voice and data plan, as well as the apps installed on them. However, if you allow your employees to use the phones for personal calls and internet browsing, this benefit is exempt from taxation, as long as the primary usage is for business purposes.

4. Group Term Life Insurance
The premiums for life insurance offered to employees, with payable death benefit of $50,000, paid by the company, are exempt from taxation. It is also possible, in certain conditions, to extend this coverage to your employee’s spouse.

5. Achievement Awards
Everyone loves being acknowledged and awarded for their dedication, efforts and achievements. This builds loyalty and keeps your team motivated in the long run. This type of benefit is also tax exempt up to the amount of $1,600 per employee in tangible personal property.

Other types of tax-exempt benefits you could think of are free meals at the office, gym subscriptions and dependent care assistance.

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