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3 Ways to Strengthen Your Business Credit Score

Similar to a high FICO score, it is important to have a strong business credit score. In order to qualify for loans or get approved for trade credit, you must prove that your company is a safe bet for investors, banks and private lenders.

A low business credit score signifies that your business carries a significant amount of risk to lend funds to, which will result in either a denial of a loan or unfavorable rates and terms based on the level of risk. Additionally, you can qualify for lower insurance rates with a higher credit score.

How is Your Business Credit Score Calculated?

Your business score is calculated by credit-reporting agencies that utilize an algorithm based on various factors. Although your score can fluctuate slightly depending on the agency and its scoring model, similar factors are taken into account when determining your score.

Your business’ creditworthiness is rated on a scale from 0 to 100 based on the accounts in your company’s name. It is important to note, however, that business lenders may consider your personal FICO scores in their decision-making process.

How to Strengthen Your Business Credit Score

In order to improve your business’ creditworthiness, you must strengthen your business credit score. There are three effective ways to do so, which include:

Monitor Your Credit Report

The first and most effective way of strengthening your credit score is regularly monitoring your credit report. No system is created perfectly, and errors are common between lenders and credit reporting agencies.

If you don’t monitor your credit report, you will not be aware of discrepancies that can significantly plummet your business credit score. Get in the habit of requesting annual credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, which will alert you to issues that you must address to improve your score.

Pay Bills on Time

It is no easy task to manage your personal and business expenses, which is why you may not have enough funds every month to pay all of your bills on time. There are sources that may advise you to lag behind on payments, later agreeing with collection agencies on repaying lower amounts just to settle your debts.

While this may benefit you in the short term, not paying your bills on time can significantly affect your business credit score. Not only will you be obligated to pay a late fee and possible interest on the outstanding balance, a payment that is over 30 days late will be reported to credit agencies, possibly lowering your business credit scores. One source states that “payment history information typically accounts for nearly 35 percent of your credit score, making it one of the single most important factors in calculating your score.“

Paying bills on time will boost your credit score; in fact, paying bills ahead of the due date will play an even bigger role in strengthening your score!

Raise Your Credit Limit

Your business credit score is calculated by factoring in your credit utilization ratio, which considers available credit in relation to debt. It is advisable to keep the ratio under 30% to have a high credit score.

Although you may not be able to limit the amount of debt your company has, you can improve the credit utilization ratio by increasing your credit limit. While many credit cards will do so automatically after a certain period of time, you can make proactive efforts by contacting lenders and requesting an increase in your credit limit to better your business credit score.

Increase your credit limit in order to raise your business credit score by securing a small business loan from IOU Financial! Contact us to inquire about a small business loan of up to $300,000 in just 24-48 hours!

Small Business Tips: Increasing Your Financial Literacy

Having a great idea and running with it is not enough to operate a successful business. A business owner must wear many hats when operating their company, but managing and understanding their finances doesn’t always come easily.

Relying on a business manager or an accountant is a beneficial way to verify that you are conducting your finances by the book, but many small business owners do not have the budgets to afford these specialists. In fact, “40 percent of small business owners say they are financially illiterate – yet 81 percent handle their business’ finances themselves,” according to an Intuit study as reported by one source.

Whether you will hire out or want to tackle your business finances yourself, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of your financial situation if you truly want to be in charge of your business. With a little effort, it is not difficult to increase your financial literacy with these tips:

Know What is Required to Run a Business

Bloomberg reported that 80 percent of businesses fail in the first 18 months, states a source. Much of that failure is due to the fact that business owners are not skilled in properly handling their finances. There is a lot of financial planning and management required to operate a company, such as “budget, accounting and taxes, calculating price points, and projecting revenues and success rates well into the future to ensure continued success.”

Some owners get into trouble because they don’t plan ahead, and don’t save for unexpected expenses, such as hiring additional staff,  surprise incidents that may arise, or the simple costs of doing business they may not have been aware of. Others don’t know payroll and tax rules, and receive heavy fines for paying late or not at all.

As a small business owner, it is imperative to understand all of the financial requirements to run a business!

If Borrowing Money, Do Your Research

It can be tempting to borrow money from a bank or an investor to start or grow your business, and this can help you get off the ground. Before you jump into the world of lenders,  take time to evaluate your own expenses and savings and calculate what you can afford, or if it would be possible to provide your own seed capital, a process called “bootstrapping.”

Although using your own funds can involve some risk, paying high interest rates can be harmful in the long run if your cashflow can’t afford it. If you do choose to borrow, make sure to compare the terms and interest rates that lenders and investors are offering, as well as research their credibility and history.

Learn Proper Financial Planning

Financial planning is essential to secure your company’s long-lasting success. Startups require substantial seed capital to cover expenses for the first few years. Few startups are profitable right away, as all the money is typically reinvested in business growth for hiring staff, marketing and inventory.

You must have a comprehensive understanding of your monthly expenses and profit. Small business owners who hire accountants typically cannot understand complicated accounting reports, so it would be advantageous to track expenses, profits and bank account balances themselves to stay on track, according to personal finance expert, Andrea Travillian. Truly understanding your monthly expenses will help you save for them rather than spend your profits as they come in, leaving you in a lurch when the time to pay bills comes around.

Save a portion of your monthly profits to pay for taxes; business owners who do not get in the habit of doing so can be pushed to declare bankruptcy when a significant amount is due from the IRS that they did not budget for.

If you need financial assistance to take a course to improve your financial literacy, hire a corporate accountant or pay business taxes, IOU Financial is ready to help! We provide small business loans of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours!

What to Look for in a Financial Advisor

Considering that Americans have accumulated more debt now than ever before, working with a financial advisor can be a great decision in planning financial expenses. A financial advisor can help with putting together a budget to avoid overspending, choosing the right investment strategy or prepare for taxes that come with running a small family business.

There’s no reason to stay in the dark when it comes to money and getting the best results requires the right financial advisor. But how do you find the right financial advisor?

Do They Understand Your Needs?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to finances. There are solid strategies that will benefit most people – for example, paying down debt is almost always a good choice. But every individual has their own financial goals and needs. A 45-year-old father of two will need very different financial advice than a 23-year-old single professional who just finished school.

Look for a financial advisor who demonstrates an understanding of your situation. That way, they can offer advice tailored to you.

Does Their Education, Expertise and Certifications Align with Your Own Goals?

Although financial advisors can cover a broad range of topics, if you’re looking for a specific type of financial advice, then you’ll want to look for an advisor whose qualifications match that area.

Maybe you’re trying to pay off student loan debt, getting your first mortgage or applying for a small business loan. These are all detail-heavy processes and you’ll get the best advice from a financial advisor who specializes in these processes. Evaluate the certifications a potential advisor has to see if they’re the right choice for your current and future goals.

Does Their Compensation Plan Incentivize Your Success?

You obviously pay for their service, but you might not be the only one paying a financial advisor.

There are many firms that offer their advisors product-based incentives; those advisors make a commission for selling the firm’s products to customers. Although this doesn’t necessarily make them bad financial advisors, it can create a conflict of interest and alter the advice they might suggest to you.

Don’t be afraid to ask a financial advisor about their compensation plan. Be careful with those that make money from sales; you’ll might end up wondering whether they’re recommending a product because it’s right for you or because it will make them money.

Can They Teach You?

Financial literacy is a gigantic problem for most Americans and very little is being done to solve the problem. What’s more troublesome is that the average person has more financial responsibilities than ever before. There are all kinds of ways borrow money including banks, credit unions and online lenders. It makes it easier than ever to accrue debt. Retirement no longer comes from pensions, Social Security may not be around in the future and people live longer than ever.

That makes it even more important to save money consistently and avoid debt. A financial advisor who can educate you on personal or business finances will help you save more and borrow less.

Do They Truly Seem to Care?

You don’t want your meetings with a financial advisor to feel like college lectures, but unfortunately, they often do. The advisor sees you as one of many clients, your money is just numbers added to a statement and they’ll simply go through the motions with you.

You might learn something from that type of advisor, but you’ll certainly have better results with an advisor who engages with you. Look for a financial advisor who inquiries about your current situation, your financial history, your goals and all the other important details about your life. When an advisor gets to know you as a human being, they can help you make the best financial decisions because they know your wants and needs in life.

There are plenty of excellent financial advisors out there and working with one could be the best decision you make to take control of your finances and improve your future. Be patient as you look for a financial advisor and keep those five questions in mind to ensure that the person you choose is the right fit and has your best interests at heart.

Guest post: Heather Lomax is a contributing writer from Financial Licensing Advisors. She regularly contributes articles to a variety of investment and finance blogs.

How to Build and Keep Your Business’ Good Credit Score

More than likely, you depended on your personal credit when you launched your small business. However, a growing business must tap higher amounts of capital, and a good business credit score will prove helpful in this regard.

Business Credit Score

Your business credit, also known as trade or commercial credit, is based on the likelihood that your enterprise will repay its debts. Like personal scores, your business credit score is calculated using several inputs, including your payment history, bankruptcies, collections and your credit utilization ratio – your outstanding credit balance divided by your available credit. In addition, your business credit score might include considerations about your company’s size and your industry. Keep in mind that your business credit report can be requested without your permission, and you’ll have to pay to get a copy of your business credit report.

Creating a Good Credit Score

It makes sense to establish your business credit score as soon as possible, because you don’t want to look desperate if you suddenly need credit. You’ll find many lenders require a company to operate for two years, although an IOU Financial loan needs only one year of history. If you’re operating, you should be building your business score. Here’s how to do it:

Obtain Federal Employer Identification Number:

This will help separate your business from your personal finances. You should also get a business checking account and a business phone number. For optimal protection of your personal assets, consider establishing your business as a limited liability company or a corporation.

Get a DUNS number:

Dun & Bradstreet is a corporate credit reporting agency that issues a universal identification number, the DUNS number, that is recognized around the globe. A DUNS number opens doors to some corporate and government contracts, as well as loans from the Small Business Administration. More to the point, D&B will create and track your business credit profile when you get a DUNS number, leading to an accurate credit score.

Establish credit accounts:

Obtain one or more business credit/debit/charge cards, including a gas card if your business has vehicles. Also, open credit accounts with your suppliers, including office supply stores.

Use your credit responsibly:

Pay your bills on time, and even ahead of schedule. Nothing helps your credit score like an unblemished repayment record. If money is tight, you can get a commercial loan and pay off your other debts. One of the biggest challenges a small business faces is making the monthly loan payment. IOU Financial has a better idea – daily or weekly automatic payments that you’ll barely notice.

Don’t be delinquent, renegotiate:

If you’re having trouble paying your credit accounts, don’t miss payments. Instead, reach out to your suppliers for looser terms. Many will agree rather than risk default.

Mind your credit utilization ratio:

A ratio below 20 percent is great. It means that you have the means to handle a sudden need for money without scrambling to obtain additional credit. It also indicates you are operating your business well. Make it a priority: Calculate your CRU and get it down below 20 percent.

Check your credit report:

Get an updated business credit report every three months and check for mistakes. One derogatory mistake can sink you credit score, so clean them up as soon as you identify them.

It’s wonderful to have a good credit score, but bear in mind that IOU Financial doesn’t require it to lend you money. If you’ve owned and operated your own business for at least a year, clear $100,000 in annual revenue, average a daily bank balance of at least $3,000, and make at least 10 bank deposits a month (for retail/e-tail companies), IOU Financial will do everything possible to approve your loan request, even if your credit score is less than good.

Why Your Accountant (CPA) or Capital Adviser Should Work with an Online Lender to Help your Business Access Capital

As a small business owner, you may have witnessed how much harder it has become for you to access capital in the form of small non-collateral loans. After your bank says no, you may be looking for help to identify a competitive and disciplined online business lender that you can get funding from.

The banks have completely exited the “lending small” space as regulation has made it unprofitable and has forced them to seek higher loan amounts they can underwrite for a profit.  The government response to the credit crisis, essentially Dodd-Frank, has tightened reserve requirements on banks and added new layers of regulation over U.S. financial firms.

For all the good that Dodd-Frank did to protect consumers, it also facilitated the demise of thousands of small banks. In 1984, the U.S. had 14,400 banks, but that number shrank to 5,083 by 2016. Most of the lost banks were small, and many had to merge with bigger competitors. The result is that it is harder for your small business to get modest loans of up to $300,000, because many banks nowadays focus on larger and more profitable business loans above $500,000 – high overhead costs tied to regulatory costs, limited human resources, make small loans unprofitable for most banks.

Despite, or rather because of, the retrenchment in conventional business lending since 2008, online business lenders have been trying to fill the void. And many CPAs and tax advisers should be able to help, and even be excited to save you time in looking for a small non-collateral loan that works for your small business.

 Think of it from their point of view:

  • The loan application and documentation burden imposed by conventional banks requires a fair amount of work. Financial statements, projections, multiple year tax returns, and the myriad other forms that banks require to underwrite a business loan can consume a lot of a CPA’s time and energy.
  • By contrast, your CPA or capital adviser can help you apply for an online loan quickly and with minimum effort. All that is really needed is a minimum of 3 months’ worth of your business bank statements (easily downloaded from most banks), most recent tax returns, a copy of your driver’s license and a voided check. None of the audited financials, or fancy business plans so precious to banks are needed by IOU Financial. If you mention to your accountant a need for short term working capital, all s/he has to screen for is monthly bank deposits of at least $10,000, an average daily bank account balance of $3,000, 10 or more deposits per month, and 80% ownership in the business with at least one year in operation.
  • Banks have high loan-rejection rates, due to constraints placed on them by regulations, unprofitable nature of smaller loans, timid loan committees and over-reliance on credit scores. Online business loans, like those offered by IOU Financial, sidestep these problems because they welcome smaller loans and value cash flows as much as credit scores. In other words, online lenders don’t waste your CPA’s or their clients’ time… your time.
  • Speaking of time, online lenders can approve a loan request in a few hours and fund the borrower within 24 hours. A CPA or capital adviser who is helping a business owner respond to rapidly shifting cash flows knows that waiting weeks for a bank to decide a loan is completely unresponsive to the business’ needs.
  • Bank loans don’t tend to be flexible, but your CPA knows that a small business relies on flexible funding to survive and prosper. IOU Financial allows a borrower to re-borrow once 40 percent of the original loan is repaid.
  • CPAs are paid, among other reasons, to keep a sharp eye on expenses. They are therefore gratified to learn that IOU Financial loans costs much less than merchant cash advances.
  • CPAs help owners manage cash flow so that the business never gets caught short. The fixed, daily or weekly, automatic repayments of IOU Financial loans means that cash outflow is spread equally over the month instead of accumulating into a large monthly payback that can weaken the business’ cash reserves. Budgeting is easier and impact upon inventory purchasing is minimal.
  • Your CPA can work with IOU Financial to ensure the request loan does not put unnecessary strain on the business cash-flow. Sometimes, borrowing less is a good idea as it gives time to the business owner to work through debt repayment and get used to the loan; your CPA and IOU Financial can work together to find the right loan for your business.

Unless owners have special skills and plenty of time on their hands to deal with fastidious bank loan procedures, a business’ accounting and tax prep are best left to professionals like CPAs. Don’t make them bill you for the extra hours it takes to get a bank loan. Save money through a business loan of up to $300,000 from IOU Financial.

Ask your CPA or Capital Adviser to give us a call and will be happy to answer questions and make sure our capital can help your business grow. Call Christophe Choquart at  678 809 6685 to discuss how an IOU Financial loan may be right for your business.

How to Budget for Your Business Despite Your Irregular Cash Flow

Uncertainty is the name of the game for many small businesses. You might not know how your orders will flow next month, whether demand for your product or service will change, or whether you’ll be hit by some unanticipated expense. Your business might be highly seasonal or might depend on external factors beyond your control. These contingencies can make for volatile cash flows that demand attention lest they deplete your working capital and possibly drive you out of business.

Budgeting for irregular cash flows is therefore a task at the heart of keeping your business alive and growing. Your suppliers will have only limited patience if you are forced to delay payments. The inability to purchase the planned amount of raw goods or inventory directly affects revenues, simply because you’ll have less product to sell. If you need to lay off workers and managers, you can expect a steep drop in morale and holes in your operations.

With stakes like these, it’s good to know that there are several steps you can take to smooth over irregular cash flows:

Prepare three budgets:

You’ll want to budget for the most likely scenario, but also for better-than-expected and worst-case ones. Unless you have reason for optimism, pay the most attention to the worst-case scenario and make sure you budget anticipates a drastic cut in sales or rise in expenses. Should events prove more benevolent, you’ll be fine. If things turn considerably worse than you choose to imagine, you might be more willing to pull the plug and cut your losses.

Line up sources of capital:

Establish business relationships with lenders. Don’t rely on banks, because they are famously fair-weather friends – when it rains, the bankers confiscate the umbrellas. Instead, work with a commercial lender that will stand by you through good times and bad. You will need a source of cash that can move quickly and provide friendly repayment terms. For instance, IOU Financial offers daily repayment instead of monthly, which means you don’t have to fear a mountainous outflow every 30 days.

Structure your company for flexibility:

If you operate in a volatile environment, it probably makes sense to use contractors and consultants rather than employees. This gives you the ability to quickly change staffing levels without disrupting peoples’ lives. You also sidestep issues concerning unemployment insurance, tax withholding, employee health insurance, retirement plans, etc. Choose suppliers and vendors who are willing to commit up front to extended repayment terms.

Share information:

The best practice today is to share your production data with your suppliers, who can then react faster to your changing needs. To the extent that you can make your suppliers your partners, you have the best chance of weathering bad times without facing lawsuits for nonpayment.

Factor in factoring:

When facing a cash crunch, consider factoring your accounts receivables. This will provide a fast cash infusion, but will cut your net income. Factoring can be useful, but is often more expensive in the long run than is simply borrowing at a fixed interest rate. You can also raise money by wholesaling inventory and selling off equipment, as long as this doesn’t permanently damage your revenues.

Find investors:

It’s not easy for small businesses to find outside investors, but if you can identify a willing angel investor or venture capitalist, you might be able to arrange a sale of equity. While this will bring in fresh money, it will also dilute your ownership. You might not be thrilled by having new partners in a business you created from scratch.

These options are useful, but the fastest and most convenient method to ride out volatile cash flows is to arrange a business loan with a reasonable interest rate and convenient repayment terms. If you agree, contact IOU Financial today and have funds deposited into your bank account in as quickly as one day.

Is Keeping a Debt Tracker Beneficial to Your Business?

If you run a small business, especially one in which you’ve empowered others to spend company money, you know how important it is to manage your cash flow. It comes down to a question of solvency: Does your business have enough short term cash to meet its obligations, including debt payments due throughout the next several months. One of the unfortunate things about most debts is the big monthly repayment that always seems to threaten your cash balance. We say most debts, because as we’ll explain below, some loans, like the ones offered by IOU Financial, avoid mammoth monthly payments altogether.

A debt tracking tool, which centralizes information about debts and debt payments, is therefore an excellent idea for the busy owner on the go. The tool can take the form of a downloaded computer program, online software, or a mobile app:

  1. Computer program: You can purchase or rent financial management software, such as QuickBooks, that provides debt tracking functionality, along with a host of other features. If you use a computer-based accounting system, you should be able to generate reports about cash and debt, but they might be less timely.
  2. Online software: A program like Mint provides information about your upcoming bills and warns you if your cash is running low.
  3. Mobile apps: Several apps exist for tracking debt, including Debt Tracker, LearnVest, Unbury.me and others. These have the advantage of always being available, even if you aren’t at your computer. Mobile wallets not only include debt information, but also provide mechanisms to make payments.

Functionality

So, what should a debt tracker do for you?

  • Accounts: The program should have full information about each debt account, including account number, method of payment, payment calendar, interest rate, outstanding balance and so forth. It should be able to sort the account display by various criteria, such as date, amount of next payment, interest rate and more.
  • Payments: Debt trackers should be prepared to give you full information about each payment you make, including penalty fees and interest. Comprehensive trackers also serve as a means to schedule and make payments, by generating online checks or performing real-time bill payment.
  • Cash management: Trackers should be able to report your available cash and near-cash reserves, and alert you whenever a payment will create a low-balance or overdraw situation. You would like a tracker to suggest the order in which to pay off debts, according to criteria that you set, such as remaining balance or interest rate. A nice feature is to have an earmarking function, in which you allocate a portion of cash inflows to specific objectives, such as building up a fund to act as equity for a property purchase. Naturally, part of cash management is to report who owes you money and when to expect it.
  • Usability: A debt tracker, whether standalone or a function of a larger system, should meet certain usability standards. It should be easy to operate, secure (using encryption, PINs, etc.), offer flexible reporting, and, if you choose, a method to make payments. Ideally, the tracker will be integrated with the rest of your company’s financial data, including all payables and receivables.

The Joy of Daily Repayments

We mentioned earlier how monthly debt payments require you to ensure you have sufficient cash when the payments come due. That’s a major benefit of debt trackers. IOU Financial takes a different, and better, tack. Instead of hitting you with a monthly lump-sum repayment, we evenly spread your payments over all the business days within the month, and we automatically debit your bank account so that you don’t have to take any special steps. Your debt tracker will show you how your balance goes down gently each day. IOU Financial can lend your business up to $150,000 in as little as 24 hours, so contact us today to experience the joy of daily repayments.

How to Get Your Finances Ready for Your Slow Season

Many small businesses experience one or more slow seasons each year. For a B2B business, the year-end holidays might be a slack time, while tourist-related businesses might have little to do during the coldest (or hottest) months. Although challenging, a slow season is at least predictable, which means you can make preparations to see your business through the lean months. Here are some suggestions:

Assess your cash needs:

Most businesses have a mixture of fixed and variable costs. You’ll need enough cash to cover your fixed costs and that portion of your variable costs that you can’t avoid. Your monthly and quarterly budgets should give you a good indication of an impending cash crunch and thus how much money you must have on hand.

Husband your cash:

In the months just prior to the slow season, accumulate excess cash, if any, in a bank account. If you have a lot of money tied up in unpaid invoices, consider factoring them for immediate cash. Cut your expenses and purchases during the slow season. If you hire contractors, it’s easy enough to reduce staffing. That’s a little harder to do with employees, but many places do furlough workers or give them unpaid extra vacation time. In the worst case, you can let go of some employees, but that may cause more problems in the long term. A better idea is to hire only the number of employees you need all year round, and then hire seasonal workers during the busy months.

Take a vacation:

If you run a mom and pop store, schedule your vacations for the slow season(s) and shut down the store during those times. For example, if you own a frozen yogurt store in Washington DC, the three coldest winter months might be an excellent time to take an extended holiday. This will cut your variable costs to the bone.

Make credit arrangements:

A short-term loan or line of credit can be just the ticket for smoothing out a choppy selling year. IOU Financial can lend you up to $150,000 on short notice and favorable terms, without all the hassles associated with a bank loan. Since the loan is short term – the length of the slow season – the total interest paid will be relatively modest.

Negotiate better terms with suppliers:

If your slow season is well defined, you should be able to work with your suppliers to loosen their terms during the slack period. It’s reasonable to ask for due dates to be extended from 10 to 90 days, especially if your payment record with the vendor is good. A good supplier will understand your business cycles and offer you flexible terms when you need them. It’s important to reach these agreements well in advance of the start of the slow season, so that you can adjust your budget accordingly.

Increase your social presence:

Use your extra time during the slow season to increase your social media footprint. It’s an excellent time to publish articles and send out newsletters or emails containing useful information. Update your entries in LinkedIn, Facebook and other outlets. You can even advertise over the web by buying ads from Google, LinkedIn and other social sites.

Plan sales events:

If you can’t close up shop during the slow season, why not schedule major markdown events for the period? Lower prices, suitably advertised, should draw in customers. You can also plan fun events, like raffles and free donut days, as well as instituting a buyer loyalty program.

IOU Financial is your source for affordable small business loans of up to $150,000, funded in as little as 24 hours. There are no upfront costs, and daily fixed repayments avoids large monthly payments. Let us see you get through your slow period and help you grow your business year-round.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Business Finances Secure in the Age of the Internet

The Internet has its tenterhooks into everything. Large businesses have IT Departments that use sophisticated techniques to keep their data safe, but if you run a small business, you probably have limited technical resources. Still, there is a lot you can do to secure your financial data, and it’s a really good idea to do just that. Hackers can steal your data or drop malware into your website. In some cases, you may have to pay ransom to get your website working again. Here are five tips to help keep your business data secure:

Secure your network:

You need to be able to discourage hackers while maintaining the functionality you need to do your business. Your WiFi must be encrypted and password protected. Hackers often do mischief by packaging malware within comments or email they send to your website.  You need a physical or site-level firewall to control access, and a continually executing malware identification and removal program to keep out Trojan horses, spam links and so forth. If you use a commercial webhost like GoDaddy, review your security status and upgrade it where necessary.

Control your online purchases:

If you purchase from an insecure site, there is a chance the data will be intercepted or otherwise misused. You might not have a fancy purchasing department, but you can set some rules regarding who you purchase from. Only purchase from trusted sites – ones you’ve dealt with in the past, or, if a new site, one that uses a reputable payment processor, like Google Checkout or PayPal. Always ensure you see the padlock icon on your browser to verify you are looking at a safe page.

Monitor your credit report:

Your business’ credit report will tip you off right away to fishy transactions. You should make arrangements to get fresh copies of your credit reports at least once a month. It’s worth the money. When you receive them, check them over for hinky items that may indicate identity theft. If you find these, contact your bank, the credit card issuer (if applicable) and the credit bureau right ways. You might also need to change account numbers and passwords.

Be careful with your email:

Phishing is big business and the crooks are getting better at it all the time. Your email provider is your first line of defense, alerting you to suspicious email and quarantining it in a spam inbox. Beware emails that ask you to click a link to fix some problem or claim a reward – it’s probably a ruse to load malware onto your computer or direct you to a malicious website. Never include private information, such as account numbers or tax ids, in your emails. If you get an email from a supposedly trusted source asking you to take some action, do not respond to the email. Instead, contact the company by phone or separate email to verify the situation.

Set banking alerts:

You should closely monitor your business checking account for suspicious activity. If you use a program like QuickBooks, download and review your transactions daily. Use a bank that offers account alerts, such as when a withdrawal or payment exceeds a certain amount, of if your balance falls below a given figure.

If you take suitable precautions, you can take advantage of all the efficiencies the Internet provides without undertaking undue risk. When you deal with IOU Financial, know that we follow the highest standards of data protection so that you can borrow money in confidence.

Tax Season is Here: How to Properly Get Your Finances in Order Before You File

The new year is also the start of tax season, so it’s time for your small business to get organized, file business expenses correctly, and ensure you are getting the correct refund. The details of how to accomplish this depend, in part, on how your business is organized: sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC or corporation. Yet the ways you go about calculating your taxable business income are pretty much the same however you’re organized. Here are the basic steps you’ll need to file your taxes properly.

Collect your business records: Hopefully, you have a computer and/or file drawer that is carefully organized to maintain all your raw paperwork, such as invoices, receipts, tax documents, bank statements, business diaries, etc. But we know that some folks are in the habit of piling all their papers into a heap on a desk. Well, now is the time to attack those records, get them sorted and entered onto a spreadsheet or accounting package. If you use software like Quicken or QuickBooks, you can go through your transactions, flag tax-related items and associate them with the appropriate IRS tax forms and lines. Once complete, you can then import the data into tax preparation software and it will automatically prefill many of your forms and schedules. 

Resurrect missing information: If you are somewhat disorganized, you may not have done a 100 percent perfect job of preserving your receipts. For example, you know you went on a business trip last year, but can’t seem to locate any of the receipts for travel, lodging, meals, taxis and so forth. Unless you paid for everything in cash, you can resurrect the missing information by combing through your credit card and bank statements. In fact, it’s a good idea to scour the entire 12 months of these statements to make sure you haven’t missed any deductible expenses. If you operate on a cash basis, remember that tax-related events occur when money is collected or disbursed. Accrual-based businesses must instead use the dates on which income is earned and expenses are incurred.

Find the correct forms: The IRS is pretty picky on which forms you use to file your taxes – they want you to use the right If you are a sole proprietor or run a one-person LLC, this means you’ll be getting intimate with Schedule C of Form 1040. A corporation must instead file Form 1120 separately from your personal return. Partnerships have separate forms as well. Your tax software can quickly ascertain which forms it will use to collect and report your information.

Make 401(k) payment: Your tax software will keep a running total of your refund or taxes due as you fill in the required data. If it turns out you owe the IRS money and you file on Schedule C, remember that you can fund your personal 401(k) up until the tax filing deadline and deduct the contribution from last year’s income. For 2016, that contribution can be as much as $59,000, depending on your age and income.

File on time: If you need an extension, remember that only buys you time for filing, not for paying. You still must pay what you think you owe by the April 15 deadline. Note that if you file Form 1120S as a Subchapter S corporation, the deadline is March 15. If your fiscal year doesn’t coincide with the calendar year, adjust your dates accordingly.

Should you find yourself short of cash at tax filing time, it’s good to know that IOU Financial can lend you up to $150,000 in as little as 24 hours.