Jamie's Inspired Ideas Blog

You will find here informative articles and technical information on accounting solutions for small-to-medium sized businesses. We cover a variety of topics such as accounting software and newest add-on's for holistic business solutions, best business practices, accounting productivity tools and ways to overcome barriers to business.​

Nothing gives us more joy than keeping you on the cutting edge of successful business.

What to look for in a Bookkeeping Service

February 1, 2017

In today’s world you have a variety of firms offering bookkeeping services. So how do you choose the company that will provide your business the services you need? Here are a few things to consider:

1. Can they expand their services as your business grows?

Your business will grow and change over time. When you explore various options of bookkeeping services you want to not only consider your current needs but also your needs in the future. Make sure you ask questions. You should know what services a bookkeeping service currently offers. And, would they be wiling to expand those services? Is it possible to create an individualized package of services for your firm should you need additional services in the future? How flexible can they be with the services they currently offer?

2. What does their current clientele look like, such as business size and type?

It’s important to choose bookkeeping services that fit your business’s size, goals and budget. What other types and size of businesses do they serve? Quite often bookkeeping services will specialize in offering bookkeeping services to only certain types of businesses. Some claim they can service any type of business when they actually do not have the expertise or background. So do your homework. Find out who else is currently using their services and get references. Current clients are a good source and will provide more insight into how reliable this service is.

3. How can you communicate? Are they available for you?

You will want to choose a bookkeeping service that is available to you. There are multiple ways you can communicate in today’s world. You need to know that your bookkeeping service offers options. Are they willing to meet you at your office? Or do you need to go to theirs? Do they offer any kind of cloud accounting options or remote assistance when you need it?

4. What other services do they offer?

In addition to their bookkeeping services, what else do they offer? What other kinds of software are they familiar with? Do they offer training? A bookkeeping service should be an extension of your company. You want to find one that will grow with you and assist you in finding other business solutions as your needs call for them.

QuickBooks® Phishing Scam

Protect Your Data: Learn to Spot a Phishing Scam

January 31, 2017


"The Better Business Bureau Northwest is sounding the alarm about a new email phishing scam targeting users of Intuit's QuickBooks accounting software." (please read the full article by clicking HERE)


Phishing (pronounced “fishing”), is a form of social engineering that happens online. It’s the practice hackers employ to trick you into giving out your credentials, credit cards or other sensitive information. Especially when handling sensitive data such as client tax documents, you need to be extra diligent about protecting yourself (and your clients) from scammers.


Here are 3 tips to learn to spot, and protect yourself from, phishing attacks:

1. Learn to recognize fake emails

Be on the lookout for fake purchase invoices and fake shipping receipts coming from brands you know like Walmart or Amazon. Clicking a link in these fake emails could potentially install malware on your computer, or land you on a phishing page where your credentials could be compromised.
2. Be wary of ‘urgent’ requests
Understand that the 'bad guys' will be targeting you. Carefully review any emails containing links that urgently request you to change a password, state that your account has been compromised, etc.
Hover over the links in emails to display the true link destination. If the link does not match the destination, this could be a phishing attempt. You can also physically type in the address of a web site if you have any question about the validity of a web hyperlink in an email.
3. Take an active role in security
The best defense we have against malicious scammers is to take active steps to reduce the risk of an attack:
- Keep your anti-virus software up to date
- Use Strong Passwords

- Do Not share Log-in credentials


Please also read related articles:

"Better Business Bureau warns of QuickBooks® Phishing Scam" by Michael Cohn, Click HERE

"How to tell if an email comes from SmartVault", Click HERE


 Five Reasons you should be Tracking your Time 

February 24, 2017

One: Time is a precious commodity, and an expensive resource to waste.

Many know the old adage, 'a stitch in time saves nine', but surprisingly few know just how many stitches are loose in their company wardrobe. The man known as the founder of modern management, Peter F. Drucker, said it best when he noted, "Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed" [1]. Time is everything to a small or medium sized business (SMB). It's what you charge your clients, it's how you measure productivity, it's how you pay employees, and it's whether you're stuck at the office all night or at home with friends and family. Time gets spent, so shouldn't it be the first thing you track? According to the American Payroll Association (APA), employee "time theft" averages out to at least ten minutes per employee, per day [2]. That's not the employee maliciously stealing hours to cross their overtime threshold either, it's just human nature to round to nearest whole numbers, typically favoring the employee. When you get right down to it, there are only 24 hours in a day, do you know where you (and your employees) really spend time?


Two: Payroll is taking too long, perpetuating your problem.

If time is your most valuable resource, and you're spending more of it processing payroll than your employees spent working it, you've got a problem. Maybe you're processing the hours, or maybe your accountant is, either way it spells out headache. Referring back to the APA's study, it takes an estimated five or six minutes just to add and audit one time card for one employee [2]; run payroll every two weeks? That's 10 to 12 minutes for that employee alone. As good as you are with numbers, chances are you're prone to error as well (back to that human nature concept we mentioned earlier). In that same APA study they found that between computation errors, swapped numbers, and just not being able to read the handwriting on the time card, manual time computation errors can account for anywhere from 1% to 8% of payroll costs [2]. Yikes! All of that risk of error, not including the risk of an audit - or worse.


Three: You're at Risk for Being Audited.

Nobody likes audits. And chances are good if you have hourly employees, you've noticed the recent spike in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) wage and labor lawsuits. Since 2004, there has actually been a 77% rise in such disputes [3], and with more employee rights acts (such as the recent changes in California state Sick Pay and Washington state minimum wage) being passed across the country, we will likely keep seeing these statistics rise.

Since 2004, there has been a 77% rise in wage and labor disputes.

Four: You want to move to value billing, better job costing, or more accurate invoicing.


No matter how you bill your time, you need to be tracking it. For accurate invoices, read: to get paid for all the time you worked, you need to be tracking your time. And for business insight that will actually help you project labor costs and revenue, it's no question that you should be tracking your time down to the second. But what about value billing? As many know, what gets tracked gets measured.


If you know the exact time for a project, that means you can outbid your competition (and still know you'll make a comfortable profit) as well as delegate your resources appropriately, to ensure the highest payoff with the least amount of internal stress for your employees. The only way to get real time costs for your business activity is by tracking time with an automated system [4].


Five: Why stop at automation? Invest in a complete online time tracking system like TSheets to save more.

You already know that you'll immediately save 2% on payroll costs according to the APA, in addition to the other savings listed above. So if you can save money by automating your time tracking, why would you need a full fledged system like TSheets? Because TSheets delivers savings in even more ways. As opposed to an in-house time clock, an online time tracking system, like TSheets, is proven to multiply your ROI by 1.7 times. This is due to reduced consulting time, support time and the low barrier to entry not to mention continually updated features [5]. It's of course those features which provide you even greater savings. Detailed reports and custom overtime settings per employee make it easier to track employees across state lines, and to see employee time worked versus contractor time worked. Overtime alerts give you the ability to pre-empt overtime before it happens, and the approvals process takes the auditing and adding phase of processing payroll down from five minutes, to a minute per employee (if that). If that still isn't enough, PTO accruals are accommodated and tracked automatically, as are PTO deductions when they are submitted by employees.


TSheets is proven to multiply your ROI by 1.7 times.

More about TSheets CLICK HERE


Sources:

[1]. The Best Of Peter Drucker. July 14, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2014/07/29/the-best-of-peter-drucker/

[2]. Lee, M. December 22, 2003. Stop wasting time with paper; create an attendance system - Washington Business Journal. http://www.bizjournals.

com/washington/stories/2003/12/22/smallb10.html

[3]. Ed, D. March 8, 2010. FLSA Wage and Hour Lawsuits Are On the Rise | Underwood Law. http://www.uwlaw.com/flsa-wage-and-hour-lawsuits-areon-the-rise/

[4]. Finch, C. 2007. All your money won’t another minute buy: Valuing time as a business resource. Austin, TX: Journyx.

[5]. Nucleus Research | Cloud Applications Multiply ROI by 1.7 Times Over On-Premise Solutions. September 18, 2012. http://nucleusresearch.com/press/cloud-applications-multiply-roi-by-1-7-times-over-on-premise-solutions/

Important Announcement for QuickBooks® for Mac Users​

March 2, 2017

QuickBooks® Desktop for Mac 2016 will be the last version available and will be supported by Intuit until May 31, 2019. This does not affect the 2018 Windows versions of QuickBooks® Desktop Pro and Premier.

QuickBooks® Desktop for Mac small business customers will receive a separate communication notifying them of the news in the coming weeks. The communication will also include information about how to switch to QuickBooks® Online.


There is a process for customers to import QuickBooks® Desktop software data so they don’t have to start from scratch, and we offer support for customers making the switch to QuickBooks® Online.

Please contact us at 608-831-6318 or email [email protected]

QuickBooks Enterprise Team Notice - Real or Fake?

March 30, 2017

by William Murphy Senior Editor March 30, 2017

A day or two ago, some QuickBooks users and ProAdvisors began receiving a somewhat suspicious looking notification from The QuickBooks Enterprise Team.

We're here to tell you that the notice is real. It is not a phishing email. I'll repeat that – It is not a phishing email.

Apparently, the notice below went out to 12,000 (+/-) inactive QuickBooks Enterprise 16 customers. These users are those who purchased QuickBooks Enterprise, but who discontinued their Full Support Plan and were not on the monthly subscription plan.

Our intent is to advise you as to the legitimacy of this notice and discuss the issues and ramifications associated with it.

In the notification, Intuit says it has identified a security vulnerability in QuickBooks Desktop software, and while it is not aware of any cases where fraudsters or others have taken advantage of this vulnerability, it could allow a cyber criminal to access QuickBooks Desktop data that has not been updated to newer releases or patched with this update.

The QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise team advises users of QuickBooks Enterprise Solution (QBES) 16.0 to download the latest "entitled" version of QuickBooks Enterprise Solution 16.0. This version includes new features that eliminates the security vulnerability.

These features include password controls to verify that anyone attempting to access your QuickBooks Desktop company file is authorized.

The key words above are "latest entitled version" (our quotations, not Intuit's). I assume this is why it is only addressing the R1, R3 and R5 releases of the product in terms of providing download links.

I want to call your attention to the fact that it also indicates that the update – "features include password controls to verify that anyone attempting to access your QuickBooks Desktop company file is authorized."

In other words, these update patches for whichever release (R1, R3 and R5) will implement the security and password changes that many people chose not to accept and therefore decided not to migrate beyond R5.

Intuit also is reminding customers (even inactive ones still using its products) of precautions that should always be taken to protect their accounts and data including:

Customers should set up a strong password for their QBES company file. The password should include unique letters and numbers, and should not be basic words that can easily be found online or in a dictionary.

Customers should protect all personal information. Never give out a username or password and use different passwords for each QBES user account.

Intuit also recommends that all customers upgrade to new versions of QuickBooks Enterprise such as QuickBooks Enterprise Solution (QBES) 17.0.

Once again, for users receiving the notice, the instructions and links included are all official Intuit notifications and active Intuit links. The notice provides links so that you can download and install the "latest entitled version" of QBES, including QBES 16.0 R1, QBES 16.0 R3 and QBES 16.0 R5.

Users will have to decide if they're going to "update" according to the notification provisions or just keep using QuickBooks Enterprise 2016 as they currently are using it without the security solution associated with the notification.

The choice is up to you.


by William Murphy Senior Editor March 30, 2017


Please view the full article here



How to Keep Your Business Safe on Public 

Wi-Fi

April 13, 2017

by QuickBooks

(2 min read)

If you travel for your business — or just need an occasional change of scenery from your home office — you’re probably a regular user of public Wi-Fi networks. But if you’re not careful, these internet connections can make your data vulnerable to hackers.

Here’s how to protect yourself while using someone else’s network:

1) Beware of “dummy” networks. Let’s say your hotel’s Wi-Fi server is called “PierpointHotel.” A hacker could set up a fake network named “PierpointHotelGuest” that looks and acts like a normal wireless internet connection. But there’s a catch: If you join the fake network, the thief could capture your keystrokes, access your computer, and copy your passwords and other personal information. Be extra sure you’re connecting to the right network.

2) Favor networks that require passwords. “Wi-Fi networks that require a WPA key are orders of magnitude safer than networks using WEP passwords or no encryption at all,” says Darren Kitchen, host, producer, and founder of the online technology show Hak5. A WPA key is a password you enter on a security screen before you join a network, not one you’re asked for in a web browser after you connect.

3) Don’t access your bank or credit card accounts. Don’t even quickly check your balance through a public hotspot. Although your bank probably encrypts your online sessions, hackers can still view the name of your financial institution as you connect. Using that, they could send you fake “phishing” emails or set up a spoof network that mimics your financial institution’s name (see “Beware of dummy networks” above). Wait until you’re connected to your secure home or business network to access any financial accounts.

4) Watch what you email. Consider your emails to be public postcards. Don’t send notes that include business account information or client details that they wouldn’t want shared. If you must email sensitive data, Kitchen suggests encrypting it with a Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) program such as Mailvelope.

5) Stay off Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and other personal accounts. It may sound like overkill, but Kitchen says hackers could easily reel you in through your favorite sites. “What looks like Facebook, Amazon, or Twitter to you could just as easily be a phishing site designed to harvest your account,” he says. “Alternatively, hackers can employ session-hijacking methods, which involve stealing the authentication cookie while in transit — for instance, if you have a ‘remember me’ [set up], so you’re not prompted for a password every time. By doing so, an attacker can pose as you without needing your password at all.” If you must log on to these accounts, it’s probably safer to do so via your smartphone instead of your laptop.

6) Avoid public Wi-Fi altogether. That’s your best bet, says Kitchen, who feels strongly that it’s just too risky. Use your laptop offline for work while you’re away from the office whenever possible. Or if you truly need access to email or online accounts, set up a Virtual Private Network for your business. (Kitchen has used WiTopia, because it’s easy and inexpensive.) These networks let you get online more safely than public Wi-Fi while away from the office by encrypting everything you do. An easier and possibly more secure option, albeit a costlier one ($25 or so per month), is using a mobile broadband adapter from providers like T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon. These gadgets let you create your own, password-protected mobile network wherever you go.


Security Alert – Intuit Account Email Scam

August 21, 2017

by William Murphy, Senior Editor at Insightful Accountant

QuickBooks users (and others) are reporting to have received fake emails like the one shown to the left. It is also noted that while the "From" email address and the "Subject" line may change, the content of the email stays the same with the exception of a change to the malicious URL link that may also vary from email recipient to email recipient.


Note the example to the left is representative of the emails that people are receiving. The name and email address of the affected party who forwarded the email to Intuit has been eliminated for confidentiality purposes.


Steps to take:

  • DO NOT click on any links or attachments or in any manner reply to the email
  • Forward a copy of the suspicious email to Intuit at [email protected]
  • Delete the email (or any download) from your system
  • Scan your system using a anti-virus/anti-malware that is up-to-date; make certain you're using high quality security software from a reputable vendor
  • If you security software detects an issue, follow the instructors of the software and contact the security software vendor if necessary
  • Change your password(s), especially those related to financial information, including bank accounts, credit cards and accounting data (like QuickBooks)

For more information on threats of this nature, read the information provided on the Intuit Phishing, Pharming, Vishing, and Smishing website

To read the full article and see the example of the email mentioned in the article, please click here

Supreme Court rules states can force online retailers to collect sales tax

JUNE 21, 2018

by Seth Fiegerman and Lydia DePillis at CNNTech

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that states can compel retailers to collect sales taxes even if they don't have a physical presence in the state.

The 5-4 decision overturns a 1992 Supreme Court precedent that effectively barred states from collecting such taxes, and could leave consumers paying more for online purchases as cash-strapped states tap a rich vein of new revenue.


In making their decision, justices ruled that South Dakota can collect sales taxes from online retailers like Wayfair, which was sued by the state. In doing so, the court reversed a 1992 ruling that allowed states to levy taxes only on those businesses with a brick-and-mortar location within the state. The court said that law effectively incentivized businesses to "avoid physical presence" in states and led to "a judicially created tax shelter." Ultimately, the justices deemed the current law outdated.


"The Internet's prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "The expansion of e-commerce has also increased the revenue shortfall faced by States seeking to collect their sales and use taxes."


Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst with Forrester, called the ruling "bad news" for thousands of major online retailers. "Now those companies have to assess taxes on customers or they get sued. For products like furniture, jewelry, electronics, people will likely start to shop local again," she said.

South Dakota's law applies only to those businesses with more than $100,000 in sales, or at least 200 transactions, in the state each year. Thirty-one states already levy online sales taxes of some sort. It remains unclear whether Thursday's ruling will prompt them to revise their laws, or encourage the remaining 19 states to impose taxes on retailers even smaller than those affected by South Dakota's law.


"I imagine most states will adjust their laws," Joseph Bishop-Henchman, executive VP at Tax Foundation, told CNNMoney. If states have a much lower sales threshold, or no threshold at all, "this ruling would not directly apply. It'd be a new case." "I could see states trying it," he added, "but if I was their legislative counsel I would advise against it."

Thursday's ruling means you're probably going to pay more for that sofa from Wayfair or a rug from Overstock.

"If you are buying a lot of furniture that you are having delivered to your house from a pretty big seller, you are going to start paying taxes," said Stephanie Martz, senior VP and general counsel at the National Retail Federation.

That said, you probably won't pay more for the artisanal products offered by small retailers on Etsy or eBay. eBay, a home to thousands of small sellers, framed the ruling as "limited to large online retailers" in a statement to CNNMoney. It also says the ruling shows "small businesses are clearly viewed differently by the Court." Still, eBay called on Congress "to provide clear tax rules with a strong small business exemption."


Jonathan Johnson, an Overstock board member, echoed that call in a statement. "To lessen the potential impact of today's ruling on internet innovation," he said, "Congress can, and should, pass sound legislation allowing states to accomplish their aims while still permitting small internet business to thrive."


The justices disagreed on that point when they heard the case in April, and again in their ruling. In his majority opinion, Justice Kennedy said it was "inconsistent" for the Supreme Court to ask Congress to "address a false constitutional premise of this Court's own creation."

In a separate statement, Wayfair said it welcomed the "additional clarity" from the Supreme Court decision, while reiterating its support for "a legislative solution that would establish a level playing field for brick-and-mortar and online retailers."

Related: Supreme Court debates whether to allow states to tax all online sales

Shares of Amazon (AMZN), Overstock (OSTBP), Wayfair (W), Etsy (ETSY) and eBay (EBAY) fell in trading immediately after the ruling.


State and local governments had grown increasingly agitated as sales from brick and mortar retailers gave way to online retail, which now comprises approximately 9.5% of the dollar value of total purchases.


Prohibitions against collecting sales taxes from online retailers cost states as much as $13.4 billion last year, according to the Government Accountability Office. Although the IRS requires consumers to tally their purchases and pay all applicable taxes with their regular filing, few people do.


Many large online retailers, including Amazon and Wal-Mart, already collect sales taxes because they have a large enough physical presence in each state to qualify as taxable by states. But plenty of smaller players, such as home furnishings websites Overstock.com and Wayfair, don't have widespread enough operations to be subject to state taxing authority, giving them a substantial price advantage over traditional brick and mortar businesses.

It's unlikely the court ruling will halt the rapid ascent of ecommerce, which was fueled in part by the 1992 decision.


"Physical stores think this will level the playing field, but honestly it's too little too late to ever help the likes of Sears or JCPenney," Kodali said.

The evidence of that can be found in a staggering statistic cited in Justice Kennedy's majority opinion. "In 1992, mail-order sales in the United States totaled $180 billion," he wrote. "Last year, e-commerce retail sales alone were estimated at $453.5 billion."


To read the full article, please click here