Tax and Financial News
Be Smart About Giving to Hurricane Victims
From Texas to Florida, a large swath of the United States was recently slammed with back-to-back hurricanes, leaving flooded streets, damaged buildings and wreckage all around. Huge economic costs will be associated with these hurricanes.
AccuWeather President Joel Myers believes the combined costs of the two storms could collectively cost the United States as much as $290 billion. This figure considers a broad range of factors, including business disruptions, higher unemployment, infrastructure damage, crop losses and elevated gas prices. The economic impact will extend and eventually also impact consumer spending, higher prices on items shipped out of Florida and Gulf Coast ports, manufacturing and construction backlogs, as well as tourism revenues.
Some of these losses will be covered by insurance, but many will not. Regardless of insurance coverage, millions of people are already impacted economically and face financial burden. Some estimates put the impact from Irma alone as leaving approximately 6 million Floridians without power and more than 200,000 in protective shelters.
Coming to the Rescue
In response to the hurricanes, President Trump signed a $15 billion disaster relief bill. Congress is expected to provide additional funding over the coming weeks; however, many residents need help immediately. As a result, there is an all-out effort on many fronts to raise funds for those impacted by the hurricanes – and many people are still considering giving or giving again.
Minimizing Your Taxes
The majority of people simply donate in the form of cash or via credit card to a charity. This is easy and simple – and as long as your donation goes to a tax-deductible charity, you’ll get the opportunity to itemize it. If you are considering a large donation or are ready to minimize your tax burden, consider the two strategies below.
Appreciated Stock Gifts
One of the first places to look if you want to give to hurricane victims is donating appreciated securities. To better understand the advantages of this strategy, let’s look at a comparison.
Say you own stock in Sample Co., which you purchased for $6,000 and is now worth $10,000. If you sell the stock, you’ll owe taxes on the $4,000 gain (assume a 25 percent tax rate for simple math). So, in the end, you’ll have $9,000 after selling the security and paying taxes on the gain. Then donate this $9,000 and you’ll save 25 percent – or $2,250 in tax deductions.
Donating that same appreciated security gives you a tax deduction of $10,000. Assuming the same 25 percent tax rate, this means you’ll receive a $2,500 tax benefit. By donating an appreciated security, you’ve saved yourself $250, showing it can pay to be generous.
IRA Charitable Rollover
Taxpayers 70½ or older have to start taking required minimum distributions from their Individual Retirement Accounts, which are treated as taxable income. In lieu of taking distributions, you can specify money be sent directly to a public charity (up to $100,000 per year) by using an IRA charitable rollover. What’s great about this form of donating is that you reap the tax benefits even if you don’t itemize since the impact is a reduction in taxable income. Further, since your Adjusted Gross Income is reduced, this might even aid you in saving on Medicare B premiums.
As always, consult a tax professional who can help you make the most of your money when giving to a charity.
General Business News
How to Value and Sell a Website Effectively
Whether a business owner wants to sell a website or he has been approached by an individual expressing interest in purchasing it, understanding what it’s worth is essential to a fair sale for everyone involved.
To determine what a website is worth to a potential buyer, it needs to undergo a performance review. Evaluation factors can include looking at the number of sales the website has generated over the past year compared to previous years or other competitors. Additional considerations include how much the website is used to gain new customers relative to other sales channels, such as in-person and cold sales calls or in-bound customer calls.
Valuing a Website Based On Its Attributes
A different way to look at a website is by its attributes. One of these attributes is what Top Level Domain the website address ends with. Most web users are familiar with the .com ending on a website, but many websites and associated email addresses end with .net, .org, .biz or .info. This often depends on the type of the organization that owns and uses the domain and the website they’ve built. If a website ends with a .com, it can have less confusion than a website with a .net or .biz domain.
Other considerations include how customers remember the name. For example, a long website that needs to be spelled out in person or over the phone, makes it less likely for customers to recall it and later visit it. Another attribute is to ensure the domain name is not subject to copyright protection.
Valuing a Web Site Based on Its Search Engine Relevancy
One way to value a website is through its ability to garner visibility and traffic through a backlink. A backlink is when a URL on a third-party website points visitors to the owner’s website. One consideration when building backlinks is whether or not the backlink is from a well-respected and relevant source, compared to a website known for producing spam or one that might be blacklisted. Backlinks on well-respected websites increase SEO value, while backlinks on lesser-trusted websites may detract from SEO rankings.
For example, if a backlink for a law firm is on a local bar association’s website, the backlink will generally gain greater favor for the law firm. If, however, a backlink is on a legal website known for spam, the backlink will not have the same effect. Websites with better reputations that provide backlinks to the website for sale can potentially increase the site’s value.
Another important area to focus on is a website’s traffic statistics. Measuring how much traffic is generated from search engines is important because it shows how well traffic is garnered from an existing search engine optimization strategy. Depending on the SEO efficiency, value can be determined based on if the existing strategy can be built upon or if the website needs a different SEO approach.
Valuing a website is highly subjective, and these are not all the factors that buyers and sellers take in account, but understanding what the marketplace looks for is a good place to start.
What’s New in Technology
Small Business Embracing Chatbot Technology
In the past, small business owners sometimes lacked the resources – both financial and human – to capitalize upon the latest productivity and customer service technologies. Fortunately, the pace of change and the proliferation of new software programs have begun to make innovative technology accessible and affordable. Chatbots – software programs that can hold a two-way conversation with people – are a prime example of accessible and affordable technology.
Language is a complex process and, until recently, teaching a machine how to understand different jargon, accents and all the other variables involved in speech was only partially successful. Today, programmers use different methods to teach a machine to learn a language through experience, which is why the iPhone’s Siri gets better at understanding what you want the longer you use it. As the chatbots have become smarter, consumers have become happier dealing with them. In your everyday life, it is likely that you encounter chatbots in various modes – confirming a doctor’s appointment, ordering prescription medications or conducting simple financial transactions with your bank.
The technology research group Gartner has predicted that customers will soon interact via chatbots and other AI technology for a whopping 85 percent of their dealings with various companies used for personal and business purposes.
Small Businesses Reap Benefits
As consumer acceptance has increased, many small businesses have been quick to adopt chatbot technology to provide a consistent and affordable level of quality in customer service. Even businesses that provide professional services, such as banks and financial institutions, are using technology to manage and answer simple requests, forwarding more complex inquiries to a human being. For many small businesses, putting a live chatbot tool on their website to respond to questions typed in by website visitors has proven invaluable, providing a degree of customized service that a small firm with just a few employees would find difficult to deliver.
Chatbot’s Fastest Growth
Experts suggest we should expect to see chatbots take off in a variety of business sectors – especially those where customer service is a make or break proposition.
- Restaurants – Some national restaurant chains are already using chatbots that customers can access through their Facebook messenger (instant messaging service) account to order food for delivery. Other quick-service chains have installed bots that act like waiters – answering questions, reading the menu, making recommendations and handling payment transactions.
- Education or training – Facebook recently developed an experimental program –modeled on Albert Einstein – to provide answers and conduct conversations with consumers. This could be the springboard for a variety of educational purposes, using historical or fictional characters to make education accessible and fun for more people.
- Personal Assistants – Consumers are becoming more comfortable with using voice commands for a variety of purposes in their work and home life. Perhaps the best-known examples are services like Amazon Echo and Google Home. These home-based assistants are connected to an operating system and can obey commands that include reprogramming heat/cooling systems, playing music or looking online for movies playing nearby. There are many ways they can assist people who run home-based businesses – locating a delivery service, determining where the nearest Fed Ex pickup point is, or finding flight and hotel recommendations.
Chatbots may be a relatively new trend in many industries, but their efficacy in natural and sophisticated customer dialogue suggests that they will play an increasingly important role in the future.