Archives for February 2014

Basics about the new Home Office Deduction for 2014

There’s a new, simpler home office deduction this year that could very well save you a lot of time but, in most cases, won’t save you as much as money as the long form that everyone despises.

For those people who work at home, even if they only do it part time, deducting home office costs is a great way to save money on taxes. That being said, the 43 line IRS form that needs to be filled out in order to do it has always been a huge challenge, sometimes so much so that people have actually lifted out of their tax planning and sacrificed the deductions completely.

This year however there is a new and more simplified home office tax reduction. You simply take $5 per square foot for 300 feet, or $1500, and you’re done, quick and easy. The trade-off is that you won’t be able to deduct as much as you would using the older, more involvement. When you consider that the average home office deduction, at least as far as the IRS reports, is approximately $3000, you might well be giving up a good bit of money if you’re eligible for more deductions than the $1500 cap the new system gives you.

What exactly constitutes a Home Office?

Before considering any of this however, it’s a good idea to know exactly what constitutes a home office. First, it’s a room or area of your home that you use exclusively and regularly for business. Please either your principal place of business or you see clients are customers there regularly, as well as patients.

As with most tax rules there are exceptions to the exclusive rule. One says that if you store products from your business in a different area of your home than where you actually do your work, you can use that storage space for other activities such as watching TV. Also, if you travel a lot and thus aren’t doing all of your work from home, but still do all of your essential work tasks there like billing and so forth without any other location to do these functions, you still qualify for the home office deduction.

If your employer requires that you work from home, and you don’t charge them rent, you can also deduct your home office. This however must be done as your employers convenience, not yours. If, for example, you only use your home office to finish reports at night or sometimes work on the weekends instead of going to your office, you won’t be able to claim the home office deduction.

Also covered under this tax break are separate structures that you own on your property like an attached garage that you might have converted into your office. Since the IRS looks at the fact that your family would be less likely to use a separate structure as part of their regular “living or play area” it doesn’t have to be your main place of business in order for to qualify for your home office deduction.

T-Mobile making strides, and passes, in mobile market

It seems that, while Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks was the best quarterback on Super Bowl Sunday, Tim Tebow was also making quite a splash even though he hasn’t thrown a football in almost 2 seasons.

During the big game Mr. Tebow was seen shilling for T-Mobile and their “no contract” phone plans. Based in Seattle, investors are starting to see T-Mobile take on the rest of the carriers in the industry, including AT&T, whose shares have dropped 14% while T-Mobile’s have increased 84%.

One of the biggest gambles that T-Mobile and their CEO John Legere have made recently is a big one; terminate your plan early and T-Mobile will  pay for the early termination fees for 5 members of your family who switch from another company to the heirs, something that seems to be putting quite a dent in AT&T’s profit margin.

AT&T has responded with price cuts on big data family plans  as well as softening its upgrade policy for its phones.  While it is stated that AT&T won’t sell a customer a new phone at the cheaper, subsidized price more than one time every 24 months, it’s been found that they’re actually letting customers get away with doing it only after 18 months. It’s quite a big step backwards for the company, even though Apple CEO Tim Cook should be pleased, as he blames low iPhone sales of late on AT&T’s extended upgrade policies.

For families who use over 10 GB of data per month, the new AT&T plan just rolled out can save them upwards of $80 a month. The fact that they didn’t promote it during the Super Bowl was interesting and has some analysts saying that T-Mobile has AT&T a bit rattled.

2013 was an excellent year for T-Mobile as they gained nearly 900,000 postpaid customers in the last quarter alone and over 2 million during the entire year.  Some of the reasons are that they cut monthly service fees, now allow customers to upgrade their phones more frequently and also lowered the cost of international roaming, along with their recent promotion to pay the termination fees from other providers.

There is one measure however where T-Mobile has yet to put a real dent into AT&T, and that’s in actual revenue per phone user. T-Mobile might be growing faster, but AT&T increased their average revenue per customer by nearly 4% in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Of course the largest carrier in the United States, Verizon, seems to be unaffected by all of these price wars and continues to sail above them. Their average revenue per account rose 7% last year while he added over 4 million postpaid accounts. They also did absolutely nothing to increase their holiday sales and still did quite well in the fourth quarter of 2013, thank you very much.

So while Tim Tebow might have thrown a great pitch (rather than a pass) for T-Mobile during the Super Bowl, it’s going to take a bit more to knock Verizon from their throne than that. If only Peyton Manning had taken some tips from them ahead of the game.

Top 5 Mobile Signature Apps

While digital signatures have existed for a while, it’s only in the last decade that they have become accepted worldwide as a legal alternative to the standard hand written signature. While there are a handful of desktop and cloud electronic signature software, mobile apps that follow current legislation to ensure that your e-signatures are valid in court are still hard to find.

Here’s a list of 5 great apps that are not only great and inexpensive, but are generally just amazing to use.


RightSignature is one of the most innovative e-signature software providers that currently exist. While you will need to sign up to their plans for desktop software, their mobile app is by far one of the easiest to use for technophobes. It allows users to use click-to-sign authentication and text forms.


e-SignLive is both a cloud and mobile based e-signature solution. It’s definitely the most robust out of all existing electronic signature software. This means that you will be able to use the same solution for both desktop and mobile signing. In addition to the standard digital handwritten signatures, users can also use click-to-sign and voice signatures to authenticate their electronic documents. In addition, they can integrate with the most services such as Dropbox, Google Docs, Google Drives and Box.


SignNow is an app that was specifically designed for use on all types of mobile devices. SignNow allows user to sign a variety of documents from emails, camera, and even Dropxbox.  All it allows you to take advantage of your touch screen or use pre-saved signature and signed documents are saved via the cloud or sent by email.


EchoSign by Adobe is a great application for electronic signing. While the app requires a EchoSign account for desktop. You can use it to sign with your finger or stylus and use documents from your EchoSign document library.  In addition, you can also review and sign documents without a network and schedule the document to be sent at a later time.

DocuSign Ink

DocuSign Ink  offers additional capabilities in terms of encryption and authentication but is almost identical to SignNow. This particular app also creates an easy to access document trail that indicates who signed what, where, and when. This is great for companies that want an obvious audit trail.  This paid version also enables users to send documents to multiple parties and to create reminders via email. Both these functions are available with e-SignLive and EchoSign as well.


You might be surprised how some Super Bowl ads are actually created

In advertising  they say that “any publicity is good publicity”. Simply put, the main goal of advertising is to get people to take notice and, hopefully, remember the content that they saw from whatever advertising medium was used. While Internet advertising continues to become more powerful and mobile advertising on devices like smartphones and tablets continues to grow by leaps and bounds, the crown prince of advertising dollars is still the National Football League’s SuperBowl.

For SuperBowl XLVIII dozens of companies are going to be advertising, spending approximately $4 million for a half minute commercial during the game. That’s some huge money and of course limits these commercials to only the really “big hitters”, and you can be sure that they use  everything at their disposal in order to make sure that it’s money well spent. However, being able to spend that much on TV doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.  While some SuperBowl TV ads are very memorable, it’s the companies that take advantage of  all media tools available that really make the biggest mark.  Below are three examples from last year’s SuperBowl that might surprise you and will definitely, if you are a marketer, give you some insight into how engaging advertising linked to the SuperBowl is created. Enjoy.

Dunk me!

One of the most memorable ads run during last year’s Super Bowl wasn’t on TV at all but instead was on Facebook and Twitter. It was from Oreo, the cookie people, and it was thrown together at the spur of the moment after the lights went out down in New Orleans. Incredibly, the people from Mondelez,  Oreo’s parent company, had been working around the clock for 100 days prior to the big game in order to make sure that they were ready to do something “different” should something “different” happen during the game.

They got their chance when the lights went out. Within 15 minutes of that happening, less time than it actually took to put them back on, Oreo had an advertisement on both Facebook and Twitter with the tagline “You can still dunk in the dark.” It was an instant hit and within an hour had been “retweeted” over 10,000 times and had garnered over 18,000 “likes” on Facebook.

For the love of horse!

One Super Bowl TV and you can always count to be endearing and engaging every year is from Anheuser-Busch and their Clydesdale team. Last year’s spot was entitled “Brotherhood” and featured the story of a baby Clydesdale growing up to become one of the mighty horses that pull the Anheuser-Busch beercart in the commercial. While riding by it recognizes the young man who trained it  and stops, a gentle and touching moment that resonated with viewers.

That commercial actually started nearly seven months before it was shown, and the advertising company had to wait for an actual baby Clydesdale to be born before they  could start shooting! They also had to find someone who was extremely comfortable around the giant Clydesdale horses as part of the commercial involved that person  sleeping in a barn next to the baby horse. In the end was so well received that Anheuser-Busch is going with something similar this year about the relationship between a Clydesdale and one of the dogs that rides the Anheuser-Busch cart.

Jamaican me crazy, mon!

Volkswagen got into a short but heated problem last year after their “Get Happy” advertisement for their VW Passat was released during the big game.  After a number of months of testing and five different concepts that were focused on showing the optimistic nature of Volkswagen drivers, they settled on and add that showed a Passat driver breaking into a Jamaican accent because he’s so happy.

It was cute, clever and well done. The problem was that many people saw it, as happens too often these days, as racist. Luckily for Volkswagen, Jamaicans themselves, including the Jamaican Tourism Board, stood by their side and said that not only was it not racist but also was quite endearing and that they had no problem with it at all.  Problem averted.

Which, again, shows that sometimes even the worst publicity can be excellent publicity.


Is the Age of Email Coming to an End?

For millions of us, sitting down with a cup of coffee in front of our computer to open our email accounts and see what awaits us is a daily ritual. That ritual includes deciding which emails should be kept and read, which can be flagged for later, which should be sent to “spam” and so forth, something that takes so long that some days, by the time you’re done, your coffee’s already cold.

As the evolution in digital communication continues however, email may soon be overshadowed by other technology, leading to the question; is the age of email coming to an end?

For many of us the idea of going to work and not opening email just seems really weird. The fact is however that it’s become quite cumbersome and ineffective, especially if you have lots of projects to manage and many people that you need to communicate with on a daily basis. Add to that the absolute ton of irrelevant email messages that the average person gets every day and you find that most people would be happy to give it up for something better.

Indeed, for a communication method that was once applauded for being so efficient, the nearly 100 billion spam emails sent DAILY have turned email into anything but that.

Another problem with email is something that recently been in the news quite a bit; security. From Edward Snowden to WikiLeaks and more, it seems that we’re getting hit with daily headlines about the dangers of unprotected emails. Interestingly, a study in 2013 showed that less than 21% of businesses are using an encryption service for their email, negligence that is a bit of a mystery.

Email actually peaked way back in 2008, so it’s hardly a surprise that people are increasingly turning away from it both in the workplace and at home. The fact that young people, the professionals of tomorrow, prefer social media and texting to email is another reason that it is on its way out. Add that to the increasing number of viable alternatives available to email and its dominance coming to an end is not hard to understand.

One of those alternatives is called Yammer, a platform that allows person-to-person communication  within a business similar to how “friends” post messages on Facebook. Yammer has the added benefit of being able to share documents, create meetings and be a centralized location for the knowledge and an institution or organization. Add to that that its mobile friendly, cleaner and more organized than any email inbox and you can see why big-name companies like DHL, eBay and Ford have already adopted it.

Another platform that’s similar is called Chatter and, while it offers the same basic functionality, it also adds better workflow management, the ability to manage sales leads and also gives options for issue resolution that large, sales-driven organizations need.

Then there’s the fact that so many companies have become fed up with email that they’ve opted instead to build their own internal solutions.

While the end of email may still be a little bit in the future, it’s reliance by businesses as their primary communication line is definitely coming to an end. Today’s new technologies offers significant promise for the future of business communication and, for many fed up professionals, the end of email can’t get here quick enough.