Tips to Get Your Startup Off the Ground

One of the most important things to understand about being a startup entrepreneur is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to what you're doing. Everyone's path is different, and you need to find out your own if you want to have any reasonable chance for long-term success.

Having said that, there are a number of qualities that successful startups share — and there are a plethora of best practices that you can and should use to your advantage. Again — nobody can tell you exactly what to do as there is no road map. But by keeping a few critical things in mind, you can increase the chances that your startup will stand the test of time exponentially.

 

Launching Your Startup the Right Way: An Overview

By far, one of the most important tips that you can use to get your startup off the ground has to do with practicing patience whenever possible. Rome wasn't built in a day, and your successful business won't be, either.

Yes, there are times when progress will move slower than you'd like. You may set a timeframe for yourself to hit certain milestones, and there will be situations where you'll miss them.

Sometimes, they're because of mistakes you've made along the way, while other times they'll be due to factors that are totally outside your control. But while the arc of progress may be slow, it's also nothing if not stable — meaning that if you just remain patient and stay the course, you will soon get the results that you're after.

Another critical tip that can help with your startup efforts involves spending that initial capital not just slowly, but wisely. Many of the entrepreneurs who run into issues try to “spend their way to the top,” as it were. Similar to the point about patience outlined above, they just want to hit each milestone as quickly as they possibly can. Soon, they begin to get careless — almost greedy. They lose sight of the things that really matter and believe too much in the old saying that “you have to spend money to make money.”

Instead, what you should really be doing is investing every dollar available to you into short-term returns. That way, as you begin to generate more income, you can funnel that money back into the business in those areas where it will do the most good. This helps avoid major cashflow issues (another significant pain point for many startups), and it also allows you to grow at a steady and stable rate as well.

But while growth is certainly important, also remember that sometimes you need to focus your actions on the tasks that don't scale, too. If you're a software development company, for example, sometimes, you have to spend time writing code with which you're not necessarily 100% satisfied to get features to customers not in months or weeks, but in days. You can always go back and fix those issues later — never lose sight of the fact that the number one priority involves making sure that your product is always moving along the path you've set out for yourself.

Finally, one of the best ways to make sure that your startup gets off on the right foot involves freeing yourself of the idea that outsourcing is somehow beneath you. You're an entrepreneur, yes. That “can-do” spirit is a large part of what allowed you to enjoy so much success up to this point. But that doesn't mean that you're an expert in everything, and outsourcing can be an ideal way to help fill those gaps in your skill set that currently exist.

If accounting isn't your strong point, for example, don't assume that you can “learn on the fly.”

The stakes are too high to get that one wrong.

In that situation, outsourcing is far more efficient — not to mention more cost-effective — than building an expensive in-house team.

If nothing else, outsourcing also frees up your valuable time so that you can devote the maximum amount of your attention where it belongs — on your business. That in and of itself may be the most important benefit of all.

If you'd like to find out about even more tips that you can use to effectively get your startup off the ground so that you can make the best possible first impression, or if you'd like to get answers to any additional questions you may have in a bit more detail, please don't delay — contact our office today.

Education Credits are for Children? Think Again!

Article Highlights:

 

  • Who Qualifies for Education Credits
  • American Opportunity Credit
  • Lifetime Learning Credit
  • Qualifications
  • Who Gets the Credit
  • 1098-T
  • Qualified Expenses

If you think that education credits are just for sending your children to college, think again—the credits are available to you, your spouse (if you are married), and your dependents. Even if you or your spouse is only attending school part time, you still may qualify for a tax credit.

There are two education-related credits available: the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC). For either credit, the student must be enrolled in an eligible educational institution for at least one academic period (semester, trimester, or quarter) during the year. An eligible educational institution is any accredited public, nonprofit, or proprietary postsecondary institution that can participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s student aid programs.

The credits phase out for higher-income taxpayers who are married filing jointly or who are unmarried. Those who are married filing separately do not qualify for either credit.

The following table provides the qualifications and details for both credits:

 

QUALIFICATIONS

AOTC

LLC

Allowance Period

First 4 years of postsecondary education

Any postsecondary education for any number of years

Enrollment

Must be considered at least a half-time student by the educational institution

Not required to be enrolled at least half-time

Program Type

Must be pursuing a program leading to a degree or another recognized educational credential

Not required to be enrolled for the purpose of obtaining a degree or other credential

Credit Applied

Per student

Per family

Credit Amount

100% of the first $2,000 and 25% of the next $2,000 in qualified expenses

20% of up to $10,000 in qualified expenses

Credit Refundable?*

40%

No, can only reduce tax

Qualified Expenses

Qualified tuition and related expenses, which include books, supplies and equipment required for enrollment or attendance

Qualified tuition and related expenses; the books, supplies and equipment must be purchased from the educational institution

High-Income AGI Phase-out Ranges

 

Married Filing Jointly: $160,000 to $180,000

Married Filing Separately: No credit allowed

Unmarried: $80,000 to $90,000

Claim Both Credits on Same Return?

 

Yes, but not for the same student

 

*Generally, credits are nonrefundable, meaning that they can only be used to offset your tax liability; any amount exceeding your current-year tax liability is lost. However, unlike other credits, the AOTC is partially refundable in most cases.

Many individuals who both work and attend school can be enrolled less than half-time and still qualify for the LLC.

Another interesting twist to education credits is that the taxpayer who qualifies for and claims the student’s exemption for the year gets the credit—even if someone else pays the expenses. Thus, for example, even if a noncustodial parent pays a child’s college expenses, the custodial parent gets the credit if he or she is otherwise qualified. The same applies when grandparents help pay for their grandchild’s education: the grandparents do not qualify for the credit unless they, and not the child’s parents, claim the student as a dependent.

Generally, the educational institution sends a Form 1098-T to the taxpayer (or dependent). This includes the information necessary to complete the IRS form and claim the credit. Sometimes the 1098-T needs to be retrieved online from the educational institution. The law requires the taxpayer to have this 1098-T in hand to claim either of the credits, but credit can be claimed for other qualified expenses.

The qualifying expenses for the AOTC and LLC differ in many cases. See the table below for which expenses qualify for the credits.

DEDUCTIBILITY OF EXPENSES

EXPENSE

NOTES

AOTC

LLC

Apprenticeship Programs

Post-2018 - Fees, Books,

Supplies, Equipment

Required to participate in an apprenticeship program registered and certified with the Secretary of Labor under Section 1 of the National Apprenticeship Act.

No

No

Computer

If needed for attendance at the educational institution

See

Notes

No

Computer Software

If needed for attendance at the educational institution. Software for sports, games, hobbies only if educational in nature

See

Notes

No

Course Materials and Supplies

For the LLC, only if purchased from the institution as a condition of attendance

Yes

See

Notes

Equipment

If required for enrollment or attendance

Yes

No

Fees

If required for enrollment or attendance

Yes

Yes

Fees, Bundled

Must be allocated between qualified and personal fees

Yes

Yes

Fees, Non-Academic

Only if they are required to be paid to attend

Yes

Yes

Fees, Student Activity

If paid to the educational institution

Yes

Yes

Insurance

 

No

No

Medical

 

No

No

Room & Board

 

No

No

Travel Expenses

 

No

No

Tuition: Higher Education

 

Yes

Yes

Tuition: Hobbies, Sports, Games, Non-Credit Courses

If part of student’s degree program for AOTC and LLC. For LLC if required to acquire or improve job skills.

See

Notes

See

Notes

 

If you have questions about how these education tax credit provisions apply to you or if you are missing out on credit, please give this office a call.