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Business Tax Identity Theft

Most consumers are familiar with identity theft. It occurs when someone uses your identity to make purchases or obtain credit without your knowledge or consent. However, fewer people are aware that businesses also fall victim to identity theft and it most commonly involves taxes.

A business EIN (federal employer identification number) is a business’ Social Security Number. It is frequently used to uniquely identify the business and is required for bank accounts, loan and credit accounts, merchant credit card processing accounts, state and federal tax filing, and other business activities. Despite this, EIN’s are not given the same protections as Social Security Numbers, creating risk because fraudulent accounts can be opened with just a business name, address, and EIN.

Fraudsters targeted a Captain D’s seafood restaurant franchise in Atlanta, Georgia. Using the business' EIN, they created more than 100 fake W-2 forms to report in excess of $4 million in non-existent salaries to state and federal agencies.

As a result, the unsuspecting business owner was later surprised to be notified of a tax deficiency and advised that he owed more than$800,000 in unpaid payroll taxes.

One common misuse of a business EIN is using it to report false income and file for a tax return. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports that the IRS could be issuing more than $2.3 billion in potentially fraudulent tax refunds based on stolen or falsely obtained EINs each year. This figure is expected to grow to $11.4 billion per year over the next five years. According to Government Accountability Office, the IRS blocked about $24 billion in fraud attempts involving two million incidents last year alone. In other words, like personal identity theft, business tax fraud is a big and booming business.

Luckily, there are some actions businesses can take now to minimize risk:

  • Create and monitor business information security policies and limit employee access to sensitive business information to those with critical “need to know.”
  • Know who to notify in the event of tax identity theft, including local law enforcement, the IRS, and the FBI if the action involved a data breach.
  • Develop an action strategy for dealing with tax identity theft including outreach to legal counsel, employee communications, and documentation of procedures.
  • Routinely monitor business account activity with the IRS and state and local tax agencies.

Sadly, potential for tax identity theft and other risks are a part of doing business in the modern world. Your best defense is to be aware of potential problems and implement processes to protect your interest.

Business Tax Identity Theft

Important Website Trends for Business

While there are probably hundreds of changes you could make to your website, you likely don’t have the resources, time, or interest in being in a state of constant construction. Yet, you want a website which effectively promotes your brand, products, and services. Let’s take a look at website trends with the greatest potential to engage your customers and users online:

Get Responsive

Users don’t just prefer responsive websites, they expect them. Actually, they demand responsive websites. With a responsive website, the design and development reacts to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform, and orientation. In other words, when a user changes from their laptop to tablet or phone, your website automatically changes to accommodate resolution, image size, and scripting abilities. Responsive design enables you to deliver a better user experience to your customers and prospects. And, it helps you better adapt your marketing and commerce when the next new device is released.

Think BIG

Research indicates that the average first time web visitor decides the overall value of your site in 15 seconds. Using your space “above the fold” to communicate your message and value in a few simple and highly relevant words and images gives the user a reason to engage and scroll down. On mobile devices and tablets these large fonts and images are sized down so users can quickly get to the information they seek. For those visiting your site from a computer; larger fonts and images simply and effectively communicate your key message and value. Plus, using a bigger font forces you to be more specific in your messaging.

Let’s go for a Scroll

Online readers have demonstrated a preference for websites with scrolling content as opposed to more traditional click navigation. With a scrolling site, new content is automatically loaded and ready before users get to that point. Scrolling is popular because the small screen on mobile device or tablet demands a forward-thinking technology to display the content in a way most convenient for the user. Also, as funny as it may seem, users consider an extra click to be “work.” With a scrolling site, users report a better experience and increased engagement with the content and images because they do not need to find and click the next link. Scrolling pages not only save time but because they auto load they are better for SEO.

One thing all of these trends have in common is a focus on the user, their experience, and preferences. If you want your website to support sales and growth of your organization it has to focus on providing the experience your customers want and need.

Important Website Trends for Business

Sending Professional Emails

OMG! i'll get that file to u b4 tonite! Email is probably the most popular organizational communication; so it's critical that your emails convey credibility, intelligence, and professionalism. Plus, you never know where they’ll end up!

Email is a super convenient way to send an important message, or a quick blast to many people at once, but please don’t misconstrue convenient and quick for sloppy and unprofessional. No matter how short and simple the message, create work emails which are properly worded and complete. We may live in a 140-character world today, but don’t let that creep into you work emails.

“K” is not an acceptable response! Of course, no one wants to sift through a long flowery email message to get to the meat of the communication. Being brief and courteous is the goal. Always use complete sentences. Start your message with a greeting, continue with at least a one sentence email body, and finish with a polite closing line with a signature block. None of these need to extensive, but should be mannerly and complete.

Here are a few reminders:

  • Use proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Do not use sloppy shortcuts!
  • No need for all shouty CAPITAL letters, nor should you be lazy with all lower-case.
  • Keep it concise and to-the-point.
  • Be selective before you "Reply All".
  • Remember that email isn't private. Assume any email you send could be forwarded!
  • Always include your signature block with contact information.
  • Create a brief subject line that conveys your topic.
  • Never use your work email to send confidential or sensitive personal information. Company emails are often monitored by corporate IT departments. Employers track virtually all workplace communication.
  • “Text speak” should not be part of your work communication. SMH!
  • Give your emails a quick once-over before you hit send. Spellcheck won’t catch everything. Give your email a proofreading.

Much business is conducted through email every day. Make sure you are projecting a professional image through yours!

Sending Professional Emails