Taxing Times Continue for Many

For the third year in a row, I filed my family taxes only to then receive a "replacement tax statement package" from my investment company of choice. (Yes, those investment totals continue to shrink, but who isn’t sinking in that boat).

But we’re here to discuss business taxes — with the complications there making my amended 1040 seem rather paltry. The Indiana Chamber continues to offer a variety of resources to assist companies with federal and state needs, while the Indiana Department of Revenue (IDOR) has put in place a new online tool to make it easier to conduct business with the state.

Newcomers first: IDOR’s New and Small Business Education Center provides interactive video assistance and a direct connection to INtax — where needed forms can be obtained and various types of taxes can be paid. IDOR Commissioner John Eckart offers the example of a business that is expanding and hiring new employees being able to find information about state withholding taxes.

Chamber resources come in a trio:

  • The 2009 Indiana Tax Conference on June 2-3. Participants learn the latest federal and state changes from issue experts
  • The Indiana Taxation Handbook, which includes numerous recent updates and provides comprenhensive information in an easy-to-understand manner
  • A free tax helpline (for Chamber members only), manned by Chamber tax and fiscal policy expert Bill Waltz, who can answer your questions and link you to additional resources

Don’t go it alone. Take advantage of the tax help that is available in our state.

Chamber Now Offering Publications in PDF Form

Customers spoke — and we listened.

While many devoted purchasers of our human resource and other issue-specific compliance books enjoy the tangible copies, some just wanted searchable information right on their computer. For those folks, we now offer most of our compliance publications in downloadable PDF form.

To purchase, just visit our web site and search through the book categories; you will see a related page offering an "online guide" if we have that book in PDF form. The cost is the same as the hard copy, and they are for credit card purchase only.

Happy reading, and happy compliance…ing!

Why They Belong? Glad You Asked

You can visit the Indiana Chamber web site to learn all about the programs and benefits of Chamber membership. But what do members say when asked, and they are asked on a continuing basis, about why they join or remain members?

Before getting to the list, do note that membership has increased to nearly 5,000 companies (and many more individuals within those organizations). The growth continues despite the economic times that have forced a number of businesses to close and others to cut back. New companies are coming on board every day, complementing the nearly 300 that have been members continuously for more than 50 years.

The top reasons:

That’s what the members who are surveyed on a rotating basis have to say. How about you? Let us know what you think.

Small Business Owners Deal with Crisis

How are small business owners dealing with the latest financial crisis? How do they know if their bank is failing? What if they have a loan that is taken over by the FDIC or is acquired by a competitor? How could "Alf" speak English so well? You’re telling me the guy is from Melmac, eats cats and has the face of a bull terrier, yet he can pontificate like Oscar Wilde?

BusinessWeek responded to three of these pressing questions in a recent article focused on the impact the recent financial goings on have had on American small businesses. The article touches on the status and trends of banks, credit unions, loans and other information that could be useful to know:

While the financial crisis doesn’t necessarily affect the small business sector directly, economic pessimism and fears about winter fuel costs are likely to sap consumer confidence for some time. "Entrepreneurs should be mentally and financially prepared to hunker down in this economy for a couple of years," Thacker says. "The downturn that started a year ago could last another two Christmas seasons. I’m hoping its going to be less time than that, but people are worried."

Shameless plug: For those truly interested in helping their small business thrive, the Indiana Chamber offers Building a Business in Indiana. This publication, authored by attorneys at Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, walks new business owners through myriad trials and issues regarding a new business — things like protecting your company, taking advantage of the available tax credits and grants, legal obligations to employees, tax status and much more.

Study Says India the Leader in Workforce Development

A new study, titled How the Disciple Became the Guru, was recently released by the Kauffman Foundation. I’ll let the experts from Duke and Harvard, who authored the report, explain:

In the ’90s, India’s Information Technology (IT) industry learned to compensate for the country’s weak infrastructure and developed competencies that helped it become a top global player. Now several industries, including IT, have learned to overcome another major deficiency: India’s education system. They have adapted and perfected western practices in workforce training and development, and now take workers with poor education and weak technical skills and turn them into highly productive technical specialists and managers able to compete on the world stage.
Still not sure this applies to Indiana? Try this on for size from a project released earlier this year by the Indiana Chamber: Indiana’s Adult Education and Workforce Skills Performance Report. The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems did the research and offered the following:
Even if Indiana were to become the best-performing state on measures of high school completion, college participation and graduation of traditional-age students, it would still fall short of reaching the level of educational attainment needed to be globally competitive. It must also rely on improved success in raising the education levels of adults age 25 and older. Indiana currently ranks 34th in the U.S. in the percentage of non-traditional-age adults participating in postsecondary education.
Unless Indiana can do a better job preparing its workforce, its ability to attract and maintain knowledge-based jobs may well be in jeopardy. In addition, only a highly trained workforce will possess the necessary ingredients to grow a more vibrant economy from within the state – e.g., entrepreneurship, leadership and civic engagement.
The professionals have spoken. What they are saying requires the attention of — quite simply — everyone. The Chamber’s Letters to Our Leaders will offer a starting point for funding Indiana’s workforce development needs in an August 5 release.

The Intern Chronicles: Rockin’ Out for Compliance

I got an e-mail Monday afternoon about an event starting the next day that would continue throughout the rest of the week. It was referred to as a “massive poster shipping party.”  These four words didn’t really seem to go together, but I was pleased to be invited nonetheless.

 The e-mail explained that people could help as they were able — purely on a volunteer basis — and that free pizza would be provided to show appreciation. There were also a few more paragraphs, but I didn’t really read much after the "free pizza" part.

 I was in our conference center for most of the next couple days, helping to prepare a shipment of the latest labor law compliance posters (you know, the laminated ones you’ve pretended to be interested in during awkward breakroom encounters). The process involved rolling the posters up and stuffing them into tubes, which were then sealed and slapped with a shipping sticker. Since the work didn’t require a great deal of concentration, the atmosphere was pretty relaxed and we got to watch DVDs on the conference center screens. The women took the helm for media selection, which meant that we rolled and stuffed to the likes of "Footloose" and "Jon Bon Jovi Live."

 Sometimes when you’re blocking out sensory information, you tend to focus on material you’d normally overlook. I became quite familiar with the content of the labor law posters, and if you haven’t updated yours in a while, you may want to do the same. Recent updates to the posters include:

• Military Leave Notice added due to Family Medical Leave Act amendment
• Federal Minimum Wage increase; 2007, 2008 and 2009 wages given
• Child Labor Law phone numbers updated and layout changed
• Indiana Minimum Wage updated on state posters to reflect new federal wage

So as I head into July 4th weekend, I just hope my festivities aren’t interrupted by Bon Jovi tunes running through my brain.

And as for your compliance needs: You might be thinking, “I don’t have to get new posters. It’s My Life.” However, not having updated posters is against the law. You’re Livin’ on a Prayer if you don’t have them displayed, and getting nabbed for it can be a shot through the heart. Bah!

Mid-Market Companies Make Major Impact

A small number of businesses are making a large impact on Indiana’s economic landscape. The numbers are in a new Indiana Chamber Foundation study titled Accelerating Growth in Indiana’s Mid-Market Companies.

Digest these digits: mid-market firms (those with annual sales between $5 million and $100 million) account for 3% of all the state’s for-profit organizations, yet provide 30% of the jobs and more than 40% of the sales for that same group. Additional data, an online survey and one-on-one interviews with mid-market company leaders indicate there may be a tremendous opportunity to enhance the state’s economy.

The further purpose of the project is to find ways to help these already successful Indiana companies grow even more. The details are outlined in a press release, 12-page study summary and audio commentary from foundation leader Mark Lawrance.

Take a look, review the numbers and let us know what you think.

Chamber Book Helps Indiana Companies Prepare for Floods, Disasters

Floods have definitely taken a collective toll on Indiana this month. According to the Indy Star, at least 70 businesses have suffered flood damage and a major hospital had to be closed in Columbus.

For those looking to either recover or prevent future disasters from destroying your business, the Indiana Chamber has created Disaster Planning and Homeland Security for Indiana Business. The book, authored by Ice Miller, LLP, outlines what businesses need to do to make sure their finances are in order during not only natural disasters, but chemical spills, acts of terrorism, etc.

Click here to learn more about the book or to order online.

Let’s Talk Politics … Really, It’s O.K.

If someone in your staff or family recently stated Richard Lugar was doing an admirable job as governor, you might want to read this:

National candidates garner most of the media attention during presidential election years. This has been especially true as the 2008 election season heats up with the intense battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Another truism, though less publicized by the mass media, is that all politics begin at the local and state levels.

Many of the laws and regulations that affect Hoosier businesses and individuals are debated and enacted locally and by the Indiana General Assembly. The Indiana Chamber’s Let’s Talk Politics publication has been bridging the knowledge gap on political candidates and the election process for more than 35 years.

Let’s Talk Politics is a comprehensive yet efficient guide to both state and federal elections. Numerous Indiana schools utilize this publication to educate their students on all aspects of Indiana elections. Businesses and civic groups also utilize it to remind employees of the importance of voting.

Knowledge of political candidates and the election process is vital to the health of our democracy. Order Let’s Talk Politics now to stay informed. 

Indiana Employers Should Avoid Top 10 Payroll Mistakes

This is very valuable information from regarding the most common payroll mistakes:

Any business with employees must have a system in place for handling payroll activities, which includes paying employees, filing all necessary government forms, and paying taxes promptly. There are numerous aspects to payroll, particularly in larger companies with full-time and part-time employees plus independent contractors. Here are 10 of the most common payroll mistakes to be aware of:

1. Missing deadlines

2. Misclassifying workers

3. Neglecting to send 1099s

4. Poor record keeping and data entry

5. Not properly handling garnishments, levies, or child support

6. Miscalculating overtime pay

7. Leaving too much responsibility to the software program

8. Not saving payroll records

9. Not maintaining confidentiality

10. Not having adequate backup

Additionally, those looking for a tangible resource regarding wage and hour laws in Indiana can benefit from the Indiana Chamber’s Wage & Hour Guide, and have this important information at your fingertips.