It’s Here Again!

Yes, it is here again, tax time that is.  Here in the United States, most everyone is required by law to file a federal income tax return for the previous year with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which must be postmarked by midnight, April 15 every year.  You may also be responsible for State Income Tax as well, and this varies from state to state.  Yes, I said most, as there are some exemptions, and you can take a survey on the IRS website by clicking on the link here.

This always leads to long lines at the post offices as people have put off filing, and again, it needs to be postmarked by midnight, April 15.  However, this year the filing date has been extended to midnight April 18 so you have a couple of extra days!  Efile.com has a table of filing dates which you can view by clicking here.  For more in depth information on State Income Tax, you will need to visit the website of your state’s government offices or contact an Income Tax specialist in your area.  Art, taxes

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One of my New Years resolutions was to simplify more.  Simplify not only my life in general, but also my MAW (Martindale Artworks) business.  I have three email accounts, one for my website, one that I had from a previous version of the MAW website, and my personal account.  After the first of the year, I sat down and started cleaning up emails and the first two accounts went rather quickly.  However, the personal account has been overwhelmingly inundated in the past year with an unbelievable amount of junk.  The account is arranged with Primary, Social, and Promotional tabs, and I knew that I had been strictly dealing with the emails that seemed important, and letting the rest go.  “I will get to them later”, I kept telling myself.  Therefore, I had over 2100 emails in the one account!  Yikes!  So I set out to start hitting the delete button.

Well, not so fast.  I was curious to know where all this stuff was coming from.  The Primary tab was pretty much items that I had saved for information, or pertained to something that was in progress, so that tab was good.  Social had the least, and is basically blogs I follow, Facebook notifications, etc. and I whittled that one down pretty quickly.  Now for the Promotions tab.  They were literally from everywhere.  Places like Nashville Paw Magazine, Professional Artists’ Magazine, Hobby Lobby, etc, were fine.  The rest I wanted to know how I made their list.  Some were because I ha signed a petition, contacted a congressman, bought or inquired about something and one of their affiliates was sending me an offer.  Others were much more vague, loosely tied to some entity I was familiar with, while a few were just randomly sent to me.

This REALLY irritates me for a couple of reasons:  first, it loads up everyone’s email accounts with things we aren’t even interested in.  There were actually a couple of good blogs in the mix, but I unsubscribed for the simple fact that they never asked me to sign up.   Second, it makes legitimate businesses that send out legitimate newsletters look bad.  I send out a MAW newsletter once a month (on average) and I DO NOT give, sell, lease, rent or buy email addresses.  I just don’t play that game.  I want people to sign up because they like my work, I mean I truly have enough to do without all that. Furthermore, I have run into people at shows that are leery of signing up for an art newsletter, afraid that they will be bombarded with email.  I actually heard an art marketing coach tell her followers to send at least one lengthy email every other month, and 2-3 mini e-blasts per month.  Seriously???  Once a month is plenty, and maybe a quick one line reminder if there is something special going on.

Third, it is against the CAN-SPAM ACT (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003).  This is a Federal law that actually has procedures businesses must follow regarding building a mailing list and using email for marketing.  Just adding a person at random is not one of them.  Prospective recipients must opt in by signing up to receive email from a business, or tell them to be put on a list.  The entity may add them to a list as long as they send that individual a notice stating they have been added but are free to unsubscribe at any time.  You can read more about the CAN-SPAM ACT by clicking here.  There are also guidelines to follow if you feel you are being sent unsolicited email or have tried to unsubscribe and it didn’t appear to go through.

Understandably every business is trying to build their mailing lists.  But blatantly adding addresses is not the answer.  If you are tired of the junk, just hit ‘unsubscribe’.  I ended up unsubscribing and deleting an overwhelming amount of email, and it is a huge relief.  Now I can actually concentrate on and enjoy the stuff that is truly important to me such as newsletters from businesses and artists I am interested in.  Whats more, the more clicks and opens a newsletter receives the better.  Remember, you can visit my website to ‘opt in’ at any time!  God bless!

A Little Confusion…

credit cards, PayPal, Square
image copyright Martindale Artworks

I am sure by now if you are here in the United States you have probably heard about the new credit cards called chip cards that everyone was supposed to have by now.  And most folks that I have talked to don’t.  And, today was the deadline to have them.  And, many retailers are not even set up for them anyway, another deadline not met.  Sounds like a mess, especially if you are a small business trying to figure out how this might apply to you.  So, what’s a small business to do?  Neither deadline has been met, but don’t panic, it will work itself out.

I will try to give you some information to the best that I understand it.  First, today, October 1, 2015, was the deadline for all merchants, large and small, to have switched over whatever mechanism they use to accept credit cards to a new chip card reader (EMV or contactless are a few of the names), and, for the new chip cards to be in the hands of consumers.  The credit card companies are getting the cards out, which will help in credit card fraud.  Even if you have a non-chip card, you can still check out on one of the new devices, so don’t worry if you haven’t received your new card yet.

Second, the bigger issue comes down to the card readers.  Many large retailers are still working on getting retooled, so to speak, (this is not an inexpensive endeavor by any means, mind you) and you will be able to use your cards (both new and old) just like before.

The October 1 deadline meant that if you are a business (large or small) and kept the old card readers, if there was a problem (stolen card, etc.) with a purchase, the business would be held liable instead of the credit card company or consumer.  If you did purchase a new reader, then you wouldn’t see any change in your policy rules.  Many small businesses have not changed over yet either, but really need to look into doing so, which is where the following information may be of some help.

If you are a small business and you accept PayPal, Square, or any other payment methods, they are included in this transition as well.  I am concentrating on mainly mobile POS (point of sale) and both PayPal and Square offer new readers , called EMV and contactless, but they are more sophisticated than the old magnetic stripe swipe readers and are not free (at least up front anyway).  PayPal offers one for $149 with a $100 credit with $3000 worth of transactions in the first three months, so their reader is $49.  Square offers an EMV reader for $49 with a $49 reimbursement of processing fees within the first three months, making it free in the end. Even if you don’t rack up enough sales to total the reimbursement amount, just knowing you are not liable for purchases with stolen cards is worth quite a bit in and of itself.

Here are comparisons I found on PayPal’s website regarding magnetic stripe (Mobile Card Reader) vs. chip card readers:

Mobile Card Reader

  • Accept credit and debit mag stripe payments
  • For businesses with a known customer base or infrequent or low dollar transactions
  • No setup cost
  • Connects to your phone or tablet via auxiliary jack

Chip Card Reader
• Accepts payments with mag stripe, Chip Card, NFC, or Apple Pay
• Better protection against liability for fraudulent transactions
• For businesses with many one-time customers or a higher exposure to fraudulent             transactions
• Connects to your device’s Here app securely via Bluetooth

All of that being said, do not take my word for it, as it would definitely pay for you to do some homework and see what scenario will benefit you and your business the most.  I hope this has helped you in some way, and maybe has cleared the air a bit on this issue.  As always, I would appreciate any

thoughts, concerns or corrections you might have on this!  Hope you are successful with your business and have a blessed day and please share if you know anyone who might benefit from it.  Thanks!

The information presented in this article is not intended in any way to be legal and binding advice but is merely intended to present information as I see it and make the reader aware of issues at this time.

Art and Taxes

Art, taxesIf there is one topic everyone dislikes (except CPA’s) it’s taxes.  It is one of those necessary evils in life and most artists disdain them.  You have to keep all of these receipts, none of which are the same size, and it is often best if they are separated into categories.  Then you need to have recorded some place your income, mileage, and other expenses, which translates into being ‘organized’.  Seriously, all I want to do is create art!  If your paperwork is not in order, either you or your tax preparer are not going to be happy, and if you are doing it yourself, the last thing you want is a letter from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).

Since we are creatives, we also tend to not be the most organized folks around (I do know some who are very organized).  We don’t like having to keep up with paperwork, and we may even procrastinate a bit, which makes the situation even worse.  So are there any solutions out there, to help us get organized and not take up all of our time?  Yes, many people have created programs and spreadsheets to help in this area, although some are costly or may be more than you really need.  Fortunately a couple of years ago I happened to come across an article on artists and taxes by Robert Reed, PhD, CFP, in the magazine, Professional Artist (formerly Art Calendar).  He has done a wonderful series of articles on artists and their business, and he also has a website, www.YourArtIsYourBusiness.com.  There you will find a spreadsheet program for Excel he wrote called ‘ArtBooks’, and it is fantastic.  It is designed for artists specifically, although you could change the categories and use it for any business.  It is has pages for income, expenses, mileage, home studio, etc. and has formulas already written into it.  It also gives you a nice profit and loss statement so you can see the shape your business is in.

I decided to try it out and set aside an afternoon to set it up.  I downloaded it, looked it over, and dug out my receipts to get started.  I was amazed at how quickly I was able to get everything in and organized!  I even found out on my profit and loss statement that I was actually making a profit!  I have used ArtBooks for three years now, and my profits have gone up each year.  One factor for this is I am finally organized and am able to spend more time creating as opposed to digging for receipts and really not knowing where the money is going.  I usually enter the information once a week so I am always up to date.  When tax time comes around, I just print out the pages and give them to my tax preparer, who also loves ArtBooks as it also saves her time.

P. S. You can also like Your Art Is Your Business on Facebook.  I did not receive any sort of payment for this article, I am just trying to help fellow artists!  Happy painting!