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New Form I-9 Required by September 18, 2017

  • August 21st, 2017

Small businesses must comply. There is no exception.

new version of the Form I-9 has been issued and businesses must use it on or before September 18, 2017. Published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on July 17, 2017, the new I-9 form has a revision date (shown on the bottom of the form) of 07/17/17.

The form, used by employers to verify employment eligibility, should be completed for all active employees hired after November 6, 1986, and retained for former employees for the longer of one year from termination or three years from hire.

There is no small-business exception for the Form I-9. Although an independent contractor does not need to complete a Form I-9, all employers must complete and retain Forms I-9 for every person they hire for employment, which includes:

  • The owner of a business if the owner is employed by the business and was hired as employee after November 6, 1986; and
  • An owner hired by a partnership.

Changes on the form

The new I-9 has made very small changes to the form’s instructions and the list of acceptable documents. The revisions slightly modify USCIS’s List of Acceptable Documents and specifically update List C to reflect the most current version of the certification or report of birth issued by the U.S. State Department.

Switch to new form, now

Although the changes might be imperceptible, employers still need to switch to the form with the revision date of 07/17/17. Technically, employers can continue to use the previous Form I-9 through September 17, but immigration experts recommend that employers immediately download and start using the new form and recycle any blank November 2016 or older versions.

Failure to comply by the September 18, 2017, deadline can result in significant fines. The U.S. Department of Justice announced increases in fines for Form I-9 violations last year, which range from $216 to $2,126 per form.

Businesses with questions can contact the NFIB Small Business Legal Center at (800) NFIB-NOW or visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-9.

Governor Ivey Signs Bills to Improve Alabama’s Business Climate

  • June 7th, 2017

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey recently signed into law Senate Bill 316, House Bill 242 and House Bill 390. All three bills, improve Alabama’s business climate by reducing regulation and by making it easier for small businesses to operate in the state.

“From day one, my quest has been to ensure the world knows Alabama is open for business. By removing burdensome regulations on small businesses we are sending that signal loud and clear,” Governor Ivey said. “When businesses spend less on overhead and government regulation, they can invest more in hiring; that’s good for all Alabamians.”

“I am thankful for the work of the legislature in passing these bills, especially the sponsors, Senator Sanford, Representative Garrett, and Representative Carns,” Ivey added.

“NFIB Alabama members appreciate Governor Ivey’s support of the small business legislation that was signed into law. Governor Ivey has always been a great supporter and champion for small business,” said Rosemary Elebash, Alabama State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

Senate Bill 316 protects small businesses which are licensed in one municipality or county from being forced to buy a license in a second location just to make deliveries to that area. House Bill 242 clarifies the state’s workers’ compensation law and makes it easier for small businesses to comply with the law. House Bill 390 protects franchise parent companies from law suits initiated against the organization’s franchisees, thereby allowing for the expansion of franchise opportunities in Alabama.

“My goal since entering the legislature in 2009 has always been to limit the size and scope of government, while also making Alabama a business-friendly sate. Senate Bill 316 accomplishes that on both fronts,” SB316 sponsor Senator Paul Sanford commented.

###

To view the original press release, visit the newsroom of the Governor.

2017 National Small Business Week

  • April 25th, 2017

The Internal Revenue Service recognizes the fact that small business owners are the heart and soul of the economic community, and often have little time to learn more about taxes. As a result, to make taxes less taxing a new series of online educational tax discussions is being piloted called “IRS Tax Tools in 10…” give us 10-minutes, and we’ll give you the tax tools to help meet your Small Business needs. The dates and times of each roundtable discussion is below:

May 1st – Worker Classification – 10am & 1pm – Central

May 2nd – 3rd Party Payers – 10am & 1pm – Central

May 3rd – Sharing Economy – 10am & 1pm – Central

May 4th – Online Resources – 10am & 1pm – Central

May 5th – Small Business ID Theft – 10am & 1pm – Central

Attendance is limited, so please register by providing your name, e-mail, session date and time by e-mail to SBSE.SL.Web.Conference.Team@irs.gov . Closed Captioning will be available.

Small Business Support for America’s Veterans

  • April 20th, 2017

After supporting the American dream of freedom and prosperity through military service, millions of veterans choose to be their own boss and start a small business. It’s a good match, because soldiers’ skills are similar to those of successful entrepreneurs: their determination, willingness to take risks, and ability to handle stressful situations translate well to life as a business owner.

Like any new small business, most need some help to get started. Fittingly, there are many resources and benefits available specifically to help America’s veterans do that.

Read on for an overview of the veteran-owned business landscape, marketing opportunities, a breakdown of how to bid for government contracts, and other supports like educational programs, loans, and financing options for veteran-owned businesses.

By the Numbers: Veteran-Owned Businesses

Veteran-owned small businesses are an important part of the American economy. According to the latest U.S. Census data, veteran-owned businesses make up 7.5 percent of the country’s 5.4 million businesses with employees. And roughly 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses produce over $1.2 trillion in annual sales, have annual payroll of over $200 billion, and employ nearly six million people.

In 1999, the federal government passed the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act. This legislation acknowledged that the United States had done too little to assist veterans who wanted to start and grow small businesses following their military service.

The legislation also set a goal that 3 percent or more of all federal contract dollars be awarded to service-disabled veteran-owned businesses (SDVOBs). This adds up to big money: In 2015, the federal government spent $13.8 billion, or nearly 4 percent of federal contracting dollars, with SDVOBs.

California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Georgia have the most veteran-owned companies, but state governments vary in their commitments to veteran-owned businesses (though most have some sort of preference, or set-aside legislation).

Most veteran-owned businesses are small businesses employing fewer than 15 people, and veterans are more likely than non-veterans to be business owners (13.2 percent of veterans are self-employed, compared to 12.3 percent of non-veterans).

Related: Military Service Creates Solid Business Owners

Veteran-Owned Business Defined

While a veteran-owned business sounds self-explanatory (and in general terms, it is), when it comes to the government’s formal definitions and guidelines for government contract eligibility through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the rules are very specific.

There are two categories: Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB), and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB). To qualify as a VOSB, you must own at least 51 percent of your company and be responsible for management of day-to-day operations and strategic decisions. You’ll also need a Department of Defense Form 214 to verify veteran status. To qualify as a SDVOSB, you’ll need a disability status letter from the VA Benefits Office confirming your status as service-disabled.

Use the VA’s Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization website to register and verify your business. A quick list of resources is also available for preparing to do business with the VA, including procurement readiness, corporate partnerships, and veteran franchising opportunities. Government contracting advice is also available from the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA).

Aside from being able to bid on government contracts, registration has other benefits, like potential tax relief, improved access to capital (more on this below), counseling, start-up support, and displaying the SDVOSB or VOSB logo, which shows customers that your business is veteran-owned.

While the bidding for government contracts can be attractive, many businesses aren’t big enough to contend, or simply choose not to, because being a veteran and owning a business has several other inherent advantages.

Related: Is Your State Vetrepeneur Friendly?

Veteran-Focused Resources & Financing

All new businesses need help at some point to get started, and there are several resources and financing options available specifically to help those that served.

The SBA’s Boots to Business is a free education and training program for service members seeking to become entrepreneurs. The two-day course is taught at over 165 military installations worldwide, and active duty military members as well as their partners and spouses are eligible.

For veterans looking for help with financing a new business, a Patriot Express loan can mean a much faster path to ownership. They get former military personnel up and running quickly with business loans specifically for veterans.

The emphasis here is the speed at which veterans can find financing at competitive rates to get off the ground, compared to regular business owners. SBA-approved lenders give preference for helping veterans, but like any business loan, it’s important to be prepared with collateral, proper financial records, a solid business plan, and an understanding of what the loan can and can’t be used for.

Patriot Express loans cap at $500,000, and funds can be used for operational expenses, to purchase inventory, or for short-term working capital. For a full list of resources for veteran-owned businesses, including the Patriot Express program, visit the SBA’s VOB site or contact the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center.

Related: Best Small-Business Loans for Veterans 2017

Veteran-Owned Business Advantages

In addition to an edge in winning government contracts, veteran-owned business have an edge winning business from large corporations and the average American consumer.

Veterans defended our nation’s freedoms and prosperity by serving in the armed forces, and then made the choice to start their own business following their service. It should come as no surprise that America wants to buy from veterans, and the numbers back this up.

According to the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA), almost 15 percent of FORTUNE® 1000 companies aim to include veteran-owned businesses in their supply chains as part of their supplier diversity programs.

Related: Checklist for Corporate Contracting

Studies also show that 70 percent of Americans would rather buy from a veteran-owned business than from one that is not. Veteran-owned business can also be listed in NaVOBA’s VetBiz Directory, a database that highlights new businesses and allows visitors to search by location and a wide array of industries and sectors.

Supporting the entrepreneurial dreams of America’s veterans has also been part of the National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) mission since its founding in 1943. Wilson Harder, NFIB’s founder, knew that soldiers returning from Europe and the Pacific had the drive and determination that would help them find success in business.

NFIB defends the right of small business owners to own and operate their businesses without undue government interference. Many NFIB state offices work directly with local and state representatives to offer veteran-owned business decals to recognize the men and women who served our country and own businesses in local communities, and offer a wide variety of member-exclusive benefits, business products, and services.

Related: Learn More About NFIB in Your State

For more information on how the NFIB promotes and protects the rights of more than 325,000 members to run their businesses, find your local NFIB or learn more about NFIB membership perks and savings.

For the original article, click here.

OPPAL Available to Help Businesses on Oct. 1

  • October 7th, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Sept. 28, 2016 — Beginning Oct. 1, Alabama businesses will be able to report equipment, tools,
machinery and other business personal property through the Optional Personal Property Assessment Link (OPPAL)
online system.

OPPAL is an optional, free, reporting-only portal. The electronically filed return will contain all information included
in the standard paper tax return. There is no charge to the taxpayer for utilizing this service. The OPPAL Web portal
will be available to accept taxpayer information from Oct. 1 of each year until the following Jan. 31.

OPPAL was designed per the requirements of Section 40-7-56, Code of Alabama, 1975, that states the Department of
Revenue will develop, maintain and administer an online business personal property tax filing system to allow any
taxpayer required to file a business personal property tax return with any county assessing official or applicable agency
the ability and option to file the return electronically.

“We are always looking for better and more efficient ways businesses can interact with state and local governments.

OPPAL provides that and I’m appreciative for the support of those who helped build it, especially the OPPAL Advisory
Council made up of representatives from county governments and the business community,” said Revenue
Commissioner Julie P. Magee.

For more information on OPPAL, visit http://oppal.alabama.gov/.

For the original ADOR press release, click here.

Scammers Making Phone Calls to Collect Tax Debt, Claim to be ADOR Staff

  • October 5th, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Sept. 28, 2016 – The Alabama Department of Revenue has received several complaints
regarding a phone scam targeting taxpayers. The callers claim to be ADOR employees who are attempting
to collect debts. These callers are NOT employees of the Department of Revenue.

Victims who answer these calls may be told they owe money to ADOR or to the state, and it must be paid
promptly, perhaps through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. The criminals who make these calls can
sound convincing and may use fake names and other bogus ADOR identification methods. They may know
a lot about their targets, and they may alter the caller ID to make it look like ADOR is calling.

Victims who refuse to cooperate may be threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or
driver’s license. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private
information. NEVER share your Social Security number or other private information to someone who has
called you in this manner. These callers may become hostile or insulting to victims who do not cooperate.

Just hang up if this happens. Scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request when their calls are not
answered. Ignore these messages and DO NOT call the number they leave.
Remember – the Alabama Department of Revenue WILL NEVER:

 Call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit
card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, ADOR will contact taxpayers by mail to handle official business.

 Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have a taxpayer arrested
for not paying.

 Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount
ADOR says is owed.

 Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Stay alert! Scammers continuously change tactics, and variations of these scams continue year-round,
peaking when scammers find prime opportunities to strike.

For the original press release, click here.

Business Owners – Be ADOR’s B.E.S.T.

  • October 4th, 2016

Business Owners – Be ADOR’s B.E.S.T.

Attend Auburn-Opelika State Tax Seminar on Oct. 12

AUBURN, Sept. 28, 2016 – State tax obligations can sometimes confuse business owners. Licenses,
sales tax, property tax, etc. – business owners are responsible for many details. To make that task easier,
the Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) invites business owners to come learn the “B.E.S.T.”
ways to handle state taxes at ADOR’s free Business Essentials for State Taxpayers Seminar on
Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 2 p.m. in Auburn.

The seminar will be held at the Harris Senior Center, 425 Perry Street.
ADOR specialists conduct B.E.S.T. Seminars, which include a brief but comprehensive overview of
Alabama’s business taxes, the business owner’s tax obligations, and the forms that are required, as well
as information on electronic filing and other requirements. Presenters cover a variety of state tax
information topics, including employer withholding taxes, state and local sales taxes, property taxes, and
business licensing requirements. The B.E.S.T. Seminars help new business owners navigate through
unfamiliar tax complexities while updating current business owners on tax law changes.

Seminar attendees receive ADOR’s “Starting a New Business” guide and information about Alabama’s
ONE SPOT, a free Internet filing and payment portal that allows business taxpayers to file and pay state,
county, and city sales, use, and rental taxes all in one place!

While there is no charge to attend the B.E.S.T. Seminars, reservations are required to ensure adequate
space is available. To make your reservation for the Auburn/Opelika B.E.S.T. Seminar, contact Marcia
Sanders at 334-887-9549, ext. 221.

For more information on B.E.S.T. Seminars and other B.E.S.T. resources, visit our website at
http://www.revenue.alabama.gov/taxpayerassist/workshop.cfm. B.E.S.T. Seminars are two hours long
plus additional time for questions and answers. Please plan to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the
scheduled seminar.

For the original press release, click here.

Helping Businesses in Alabama- Alabama Secretary of State

  • October 4th, 2016

Alabama Secretary of State

Press Release

Helping Businesses in Alabama

MONTGOMERY – Under the direction of Secretary John Merrill the Secretary of State’s Office has worked to more expeditiously process the large volume of business filings coming in from throughout Alabama. This new process will better serve Alabama’s businesses and strengthen business development in the state.

“During my time working to earn the People of Alabama’s trust to serve as their 53rd Secretary of State, I was made aware that when someone wanted to form a new business in the state, it would take 5 to 7 months or longer from the time the Secretary of State’s Office received certain business filings for them to be placed in the online state business filings database available to the public, banks and the business community. After a period of better understanding the process, it became apparent that a dramatic restructuring, including new leadership as well as the establishment of certain financial controls and employee accountability measures, was necessary to end this continuous cycle of failing to meet the highest expectations of service to business in Alabama,” Secretary Merrill said.

Following completion of Secretary Merrill’s internal restructuring efforts, the waiting period for filings to be completed dropped and, for the past two months of July and August, recently reached for the first time the goal of completely handling from start to finish the processing of the incoming filings to no later than the next business day.

“Once our team met this new and high standard they were then reminded that we may have tied the game but the clock is still ticking. I have instructed our team to communicate with each other at the end of each week and the beginning of the succeeding week to ensure that we stay on track,” Merrill said.

Secretary Merrill continually emphasizes to the staff that it is our duty as public servants to be a resource to new and existing businesses. Resolving this issue is one of many changes made by Secretary Merrill during his administration.

Federal grants could help Alabama recover from coal losses

  • August 31st, 2016

By: Kelly Poe, al.com

Alabama coal miners have recently faced mine closures, job losses and benefits reductions, and two recently awarded federal grants aim to ease some of the problems the industry decline has caused.

The federal government’s Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded two groups in Alabama grants to help the industry figure out what’s next.

Southern Research in Birmingham received a $60,202 grant to develop a strategic plan to increase entrepreneurship in Alabama’s counties that have been most impacted by the decline of coal.

“We’re going to have an energy industry in the state. What’s it going to be for the next 100 years?” Southern Research’s Director of Energy and Environment Corey Tyree said. “For the last 100 years, coal was a big part of that. I don’t see an economic driver that’s going to bring that back.”

Tyree estimates that since the industry’s peak in 1990, Alabama has lost 21,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in the coal sector throughout the entire supply chain. Tyree used Energy Information Administration data to develop that estimate.

“Coal is an important part of our historical economic base,” Tyree said. “This region, like others in the Appalachian region, was disproportionately affected by the downturn in the industry.”

The plan will focus on how to use existing research and development assets in the energy and agricultural sectors to encourage small business growth.

The Shoals Entrepreneurial Center in Florence was awarded a $997,150 grant for the “Shoals Shift” project. The funds will fund entrepreneurial programs to increase profitability of area companies and startups through more efficient use of broadband technologies.

ARC estimates the project will create or retain 110 jobs, start 20 new business, and leverage $10 million in private estimates.

Last year alone was a devastating blow to the Alabama coal industry, following a long history of decline in the coal industry. Walter Energy eliminated hundreds of jobs last year as it navigated bankruptcy, but it was far from alone. North American Coal Corporation closed its Jasper operation, and Cliffs Natural Resources laid off more than 200 workers.

Alabama is one of nine Appalachian states to receive grants totaling nearly $39 million that are expected to create more than 3,000 jobs. The other eight states to receive grants are Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Appalachian Regional Commission estimates that 23,000 Appalachian coal jobs have been lost between 2011 and 2015.

For the original article, click here.

Small Business Forum Web Conference

  • August 23rd, 2016

Does your organization or association work closely with small business owners? If so, please join us September 14 at 10 a.m. as we exchange ideas, gather information, and create new partnerships within the small business community. Our Virtual Small Business Forum is free and open to those with an interest in small business or self-employment. This forum will provide your organization with helpful resources to share with your clients, members, partners, etc.

The Forum will take place via WebEx from the comfort of your own computer. Please RSVP to Regina.P.Malisham@irs.gov or call 251-341-5937. Once your RSVP has been received, you will be sent the login information for attending.

Find step-by-step instruction for accessing WebEx: Attending a WebEx Session – Participant Info

You can view the original event event invitation here: SBF Flyer – 9.14.2016