Finding Tax Preparation Information Online

Finding a place to prepare taxes online is not too difficult these days. Finding good advice on how to prepare your taxes can be another story. Tax preparation advice can come from a variety of sources, including government, enterprise, and non-profit. This article covers a few of the major ones.

Government Sources

Believe it or not, one of the best online tax preparation resources is the IRS. You’ve got to watch your “.govs” and “.coms” though. “Irs.com” is a cleverly disguised informational site fronting for an online tax preparation service. Despite the official-looking building the bare-bones look, all clicks lead to the multi-tiered submission options that may get your taxes to the real IRS, and will put a little cash in their pocket at the same time. I think the actual IRS.gov site looks a bit better, to tell the truth, and that is where you’ll need to go to get actual tax information from the government.

http://Www.irs.gov has gotten better every year at spelling out their procedures and rule changes in plain English. They have finally chosen to begin with the assumption, as the rest of us do, that preparing tax returns is destined to be a confusing process. Just as their telephone interaction has improved, so has their website. It’s designed for the consumer, not the accountant and it’s a good place to start.

Enterprise Sources

H&R Block is something of an eight hundred pound gorilla in the tax preparation game; not only have they been operating a storefront network for generations but they have also acquired one of the two major tax prep software programs, Tax Cut. Their web site has a collection of related articles that may be of value; topics include tax scams, higher education deductions, the alternative minimum tax and other issues that you could spend significant time searching for. If you’re lucky, they’ve written it up – and their articles are professional and thorough. Other than that, the site is interested in selling its online and software versions of Tax Cut. http://Www.hrblock.com

There are online tax preparation services galore these days. Some of them hook you up with an accounting firm, a few of them will sell you a software package and send it to you, but most of them walk you through the forms online. When you’re done, you can file your federal form electronically. Some, though not all, of the online sites provide state returns as well. You can find a comprehensive list of the services out there on Yahoo at http://dir.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Business_to_Business/Financial_Services/Accounting/Firms/Tax_Accounting/Return_Preparation/Online_Preparation_and_Electronic_Filing/

If the notion of putting your entire financial soul online through a faceless website makes you nervous – it should. The e-thieves know opportunity when they see it, and tax forms are a great resource for identity theft. Microsoft has a good page on the subject, with multiple recommendations and resources for protecting yourself during the electronic tax preparation process. It’s worth a look at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/privacy/taxes.mspx.

Google has an excellent page on tax preparation that provides categories of services such as online services and software packages, tax forms and tax law. They go on to provide an excellent list of specific sites for tax preparation information. It includes some commercial sites but also lists specific IRS pages, consumer tax information sites, consumer review sites for online services, and sites with advice comments from professionals.
http://www.google.com/Top/Home/Personal_Finance/Tax_Preparation/.

Non-Profit Sources

AARP has a tax preparation assistance program that is staffed with trained volunteers. This service is essentially an old-fashioned face to face arrangement, just as you would go through with an accountant. However it’s free of charge and it’s national in scope. You can visit their site and learn about how it works and where to find their assistance sites at http://www.aarp.org/money/taxaide/taxpreparation/. Last year they prepared returns for two million people.

These are just a selection of starting points; it remains, as always, a personal choice: e-rendering unto e-Caesar what is e-Caesars’s.

Why OpenCart Is Ideal For Your Online Ecommerce Business

The themes, plug-ins, extensions, and tools provided by ecommerce platforms make it easier for enterprises to take their businesses online. You have option to choose from several ecommerce platforms according to your precise needs and objectives. Unlike other ecommerce platforms, OpenCart is open source and free. Hence, you can use this online store management system to build and run ecommerce websites without paying any monthly fees. In addition to reducing ecommerce application development cost, OpenCart also comes with features to accelerate custom web store development.

It enables you to build and customize ecommerce applications using popular technologies like HTML, PHP and MySQL. Also, OpenCart makes it easier for you to build, maintain, and upgrade the web store by supporting model-view-controller (MVC) pattern. Also, it helps you to promote and sell products to more customers by supporting multiple languages, currencies, and payment gateways. You can even take advantage of the features provided by OpenCart to create a robust ecommerce website according to your precise needs.

Features that Make OpenCart Compete with Commercial Ecommerce Platforms

Supports MVC Pattern

As mentioned earlier, OpenCart is developed based on MVC pattern. The MVC pattern enables you to accelerate web store development by keeping the user interface and business logic layers separated. The separation further helps you to maintain the ecommerce website quickly and make changes to its source code without any hassle. At the same time, you can customize the open source ecommerce platforms according to your precise needs simply using HTML, CSS, PHP, and MySQL.

User-Friendly Admin Interface

OpenCart further comes with a simple and user-friendly admin interface. It allows you to manage multiple stores through a single admin interface. You can even use the admin interface to categorize users/user groups, and set precise access and privileges for each user. At the same time, you can use the admin interface to access important information related to customers, sales, and orders. The latest version of OpenCart also comes with an admin interface which is accessible on both computers and mobile devices.

Supports Unlimited Products and Categories

OpenCart makes it easier for you to sell a large number and variety of products by supporting unlimited products. It even allows you to organize and display the products in a structured way by creating multiple categories and subcategories. You have option to create many categories and subcategories, and assign products to individual categories. OpenCart also allows you to sell both physical and digital products. You can even boost online sales by providing the marketing features provided by the open source ecommerce platform.

Helps to Drive Online Sales

In addition to facilitating sale of both physical and digital products, OpenCart further helps you to promote the products and increase online sales. The admin dashboard provided by the ecommerce platform enables you to create and monitor digital marketing campaigns from a centralized location. At the same time, OpenCart also helps you to boost online sales by implementing reward programs and improving customer journey. You can even take advantage of an integrated system provided by OpenCart to promote the products effectively through customer reviews, comments, and ratings.

Supports Multiple Languages, Currencies, Payment Gateways and Shipping Methods

Unlike other commercial ecommerce platforms, OpenCart does not allow you to sell products through various online sales channels. But it helps you to sell products to customers regardless of their current location by supporting multiple language, currencies, and payment gateways. In addition to supporting thirty-five payment methods, OpenCart also allows you to set up recurring payment option for customers and sell product through subscription. At the same time, you also have option to choose from several shipping options according to the shipping address of individual customers. These options help you to sell your products in a flexible way and improve shopping experience of global customers.

Choose from Many Themes and Extensions

OpenCart is developed as a modular ecommerce platform. It allows users to customize and extend its functionality by adding specific modules. You have option to extend the core functionality of the ecommerce platforms by installing extensions for bestsellers, latest, special, manufacturer, and information. Also, you can use the Extension Installer provided by the platform to add modules without writing additional code. Likewise, you can make the web store appealing by downloading a beautiful theme from the OpenCart marketplace. At present, you have option to choose from over 13000 themes and extensions. However, some of these themes and extensions are commercial and paid.

Refines Product Search

Most users nowadays love fast and responsive ecommerce websites. They even expect the website to allow them to find and compare relevant products without any hassle or delay. OpenCart enables customers to gather information about relevant products through refine search. You can crate filters to make it easier for customers to find and buy relevant products. The filters can be created just like categories. But the filters will make it easier for customers to evaluate and compare products based on a number of parameters including price, manufacturer and condition.

Keeps the Ecommerce Website Responsive

A large percentage of customers nowadays access ecommerce websites on their mobile devices. Hence, you need to make the ecommerce website accessible and look good on smartphones, tablets, and desktop/laptop computers. OpenCart is developed as a responsive ecommerce solution. It makes the web store accessible on a variety of devices by keeping it responsive. You can even enhance the mobile-friendliness of the web store by using responsive themes.

On the whole, you can always consider using OpenCart as an alternative to commercial ecommerce platforms. But you must not forget that OpenCart, like other ecommerce platforms, has its own shortcomings. For instance, OpenCart lacks some of the robust features provided by other ecommerce platforms like caching and hook system. Also, it requires you to use additional plug-ins and extensions to enhance the ecommerce website’s functionality and performance. However, it has been evolving consistently to compete with other commercial ecommerce platforms. You can still consider using OpenCart build a custom ecommerce website developmnet without investing extra time, effort, and money.

eCommerce Checklist – Are You Ready?

Thinking about selling a product, a product line or a variety of products on your Web site? Here are a few things you will need to think about before and during the process of setting up your eCommerce Web site.

Choose the Right Shopping Cart Software

There are many off the shelf eCommerce solutions. Some are free (open source) and some aren’t. You want to choose a cart that:

1. Has all the features you need now and in the future
2. Is constantly updated, upgraded, patched and improved
3. Is supported by a development team.
4. Is Secure.

There’s nothing worse that purchasing shopping cart software and then being unable to reach the developers or support when you have a problem.

Budget

You must determine what you are willing to spend for the options and functionality you need.

Shopping cart software costs range from free to tens of thousands of dollars. Developing a custom cart from the ground up can cost even more.

The free options may sound good at first until you run into problems or need support that is non-existent. Which leads us to…

Support

Support of a cart is the probably the most important aspect. If you have a problem, (and you will) does the software provider provide live support?

Do they have a phone number on the site for support?

Do they charge for support.

You may be surprised by the number of software providers that do not even provide a phone number.

Cart/Server Setup

The shopping cart should be professionally installed on your server by a qualified server admin or the cart software programmer. There are typically many server/cart configuration options that can be very confusing if you are not familiar with the environment.

A database will also need to be setup and tied into your cart.

Also be sure to choose a cart that is compatible with your server operating system. Typically, Linux servers will run PHP and Perl solutions and Windows servers will use .ASP and .NET applications.

Choose whom you will use to ship your product

Typical Options:
UPS
FedEx
USPS (United States Postal Service)
DHL

Choose how you will calculate shipping cost

Some options would be:

* Live rate lookup
* Weight based table
* Price based table

Live Rate Lookup

Our shopping cart software supports Live shipping rate lookup. This means that it will return a shipping cost to the customer based on the actual product weight plus packaging.

(Setup varies depending on service selected)

We recommend the live lookup option if possible.

You will need to provide the weight for each product. (Including packaging)

Weight Based Table

Alternately, you can use a weight-based table.

Weight based Table Example:

Total Order size (weight) Shipping Price
0 – 29.99 = $9.50
30 – 59.99 = $4.50
60.00 and up Free ($0)

Cost Based Table

If you choose shipping rate by cost of the product, you will need to setup a shipping rate table and associated costs.

Example of a Cost based shipping table.

Total Order size (dollars) Shipping Price
$0-$24.95 = $9.00
$24.96-$49.99 = $5.00
$50.00 and up Free ($0)

Note: The free is just an example of what you can offer. You do not have to offer free shipping.

How will the package arrive at the shipping office?

* Shipper picks up package from you on a regular basis
* You deliver the package to the shipping office

This will impact your shipping cost.

Things to consider:

* Package size can impact cost of shipping
* Handling charge. You have the option to add a handling charge
* What countries will you ship to?

Note: Shipping is a VERY important aspect of setting up your eCommerce shop. Setting shipping rates too high is one of the leading causes of shopping cart abandonment.

Product Categories

You will need to determine how many product categories you are going to need and how many products will be in each category. It’s best to start of small and add products over time.

Product Images

You will need product images.

We recommend a professional photographer. It is essential that your photos be of top quality. In some cases you may be able to get them from the manufacturer.

A poor quality image looks unprofessional and will not help sell your product.

However, if you choose to take the photos yourself, try and follow these guidelines

* Use light backdrops (not white)
* Try and use natural sunlight or studio lights that produce no shadows

You will need a thumbnail image and a larger detailed image. There is a variety of good photo editing software on the market. Paint Shop Pro is a good low cost, multi purpose editor.

Adobe Photoshop is the top of the line software tool for photo editing, retouching and compressing your images. The choice of professionals.

Photo Naming Convention

Be sure and categorize the images and give them descriptive names. If you use numbers, be sure that they correlate with the product description detail “Photo Name” (see below). Typically save in .JPG format.

Delivery Options (if third party is doing the work)

* Burn to a CD or DVD and mail to us
* Zip and email (if less than 5 megs)
* FTP – Publish on your site or specified site

Product Description

For each product, you will need a written description.

You will need a Short description (one sentence) and a Long description (paragraph or more).

You want to attract and intrigue potential shoppers so be sure to use interesting copy that is full of adjectives and possibly a bullet list of features in the long description.

Product Details

Depending on the cart used, you may have to adhere to the following format. Use a Word document or Excel worksheet for each category. Please name the document/worksheet relevant to the category, i.e. name it Widgets, if the category is Widgets.

Category:
Item Name:
Description Short:
Description Long:
Photo Name:
Item or product #:
Sort Code:
Shipping Weight:
Price:
Keywords associated with product:
Options: (color/size/scent/etc.): (If applicable)

Merchant Account/Taking Payments

What is needed to accept credit cards online?

You will need a merchant account and a payment gateway.

Options:

A. If applicable, use your existing merchant account and setup an authorization gateway (authorize.net, Linkpoint, etc.) that will interface with your merchant account through your cart and handle the transactions in real time.

B. Setup a new merchant account and payment gateway. This is the most professional setup and will instill confidence in your customers.

C. Interface with PayPal. (not recommended for serious eCommerce) This is the absolute last choice. This would be considered unprofessional and could cause you to lose business. Consider this only if your are on the lowest budget.

Security

All transactions should be encrypted via SSL (Secure Socket Layer) This requires a security certificate to be installed on the server. There is a variety of SSL vendors such as Verisign, Thawte, GeoTrust and many more. This is an absolutely essential for any site accepting credit card payments online.

Other configurations:

Take you time and go through all the configuration options. Shopping carts are complex programs and there are often 10 or more page of configuration options. Each option should be reviewed to determine if it’s right for your store/product.

Ultimately, setting up an eCommerce solution takes a lot of thought, time and effort. Advanced Web Site Publishing has setup hundreds of eCommerce solutions. We are also experienced in all facets of running an eCommerce site. Let us recommend the correct solution for you.