Local now and alwaysAt one time I was among those who crossed the border to find a better deal. I stopped doing that several years ago when realized wasn't saving anything. Money or time. Today I am less likely to bother due to increased border security since 9 11. More wasted time waiting in long lines at the border.I am not one of those isolationists who is dead set against free trade ever.

Equine Accounting: Home, Sweet Home (Office Deduction)

If you use a portion of your home for business purposes, you may be able to take a home office deduction if you meet certain requirements. In order to claim a business deduction, you must use part of your home for one of the following two reasons: 1. Exclusively and regularly as either: your principal place of business, or as a place to meet or deal with clients in the normal course of your business. To meet the test for exclusive use, you must use use a specific area of your home only for your trade or business. And you must have no other fixed location where you conduct substantial administrative or management activities of your trade or business. For example, if you conduct part of your business from an office located in your barn, you could not also claim home office expenses for the same business activity. And you must use this space regularly, rather than incidentally or occasionally.
2. On a regular basis for certain storage use -- such as storing inventory or product samples -- as rental property, or as a home daycare facility.
The use of the office must be for “substantial managerial or administrative activities” such as billing customers, keeping books and records and scheduling appointments. The business activity associated with the home office need not be your main activity but the home office must be the principal place of business for your sideline activity. For example, an attorney working full time may judge at horse shows on weekends. If the home office is not used for purposes other than those associated with being a judge, the expenses associated with the home office should be deductible for tax purposes. Generally, the amount you can deduct depends on the percentage of your home that you used for business. Usage is commonly allocated based on the percentage of square footage allocated for business use but any other reasonable method would be acceptable.
Different rules apply to claiming the home office deduction if you are an employee. For example, the regular and exclusive business use must be for the convenience of your employer. If you own your home and qualify to deduct expenses for its business use, you can claim a deduction for depreciation. Depreciation is an allowance for the wear and tear on the part of your home used for business. You cannot depreciate the cost or value of the land.
HOWEVER (you knew there had to be a downside), if you sell your house, any depreciation taken on a home office after May 6, 1997 must be recaptured at the rate of 25 percent (for taxpayers in tax brackets over this amount). You cannot use the home sale exclusion to offset this tax. You cannot avoid the recapture by not reporting depreciation. Recapture applies to depreciation both claimed and claimable. If you want to avoid the depreciation recapture, you must choose to sidestep the deduction entirely by disqualifying the home office (by NOT using the space entirely for business). You will miss out on the depreciation expense but can still deduct related costs such as office maintenance.
For more information, see IRS Publication 587.

Salvaging Business Intelligence

"Software-as-a-Service is becoming more and more accepted as a deployment option for enterprise systems. But if the application is truly mission-critical, be sure you have an escape plan in advance" says Frank Scavo of the Enterprise Software Spectator.In his recent article "SaaS: plan to get out before you get in" Scavo discusses the issue of vendor lock-in involving the use of software-as-a-service (SaaS) for mission-critical applications. He points out that "If you thought vendor lock-in was a problem with traditional on-premise ERP software, think about the issue when it comes to SaaS. Under a perpetual license agreement for on-premise software, you always have the option of going off maintenance but continuing to run the software, and perhaps maintaining it yourself.But with SaaS, there is no such thing as going off maintenance. If you stop paying, access to your mission-critical system gets cut off."

"Therefore, I think it is important for buyers to think about what will happen if and when they decide to migrate from their SaaS provider. Specifically, there are two things I believe that buyers should ensure are in their license agreements:

First, if the SaaS provider offers an on-premise version (e.g. Oracle On-Demand), ensure that there are terms and conditions that allow you to transition to an on-premise version. This covers cases where you want to continue to use the software but are no longer satisfied with the hosting arrangement.

Second, if the SaaS providers does not offer an on-premise deployment option (e.g. Salesforce.com), be sure the provider gives you the ability to extract all master file and transactional data to an open format (e.g. XML). The ability should be repeatable--not a one-time right--so that you can develop migration programs to facilitate conversion to a new SaaS or on-premise solution. "

Small Businesses should be particularly concerned about whether or not the solution will fit the needs of the business for an extended period of time and through a variety of business conditions. The small business should also determine if there is a way to continue use of the solution (or transition from the solution) if the solution or the provider stop meeting the needs of the business. Small business owners are particularly at risk, because the SaaS solutions oriented towards small business users often don't have the on-premises options that some of their enterprise counterparts offer. And small businesses are the ones who are most likely to need to transition to another solution as the business grows. Further, the small business user often lacks the technical knowledge to manage the conversion effectively, and doesn't typically employ skilled in-house IT personnel to handle it for them. The result: consulting dollars get spent, just to retain the data the business already has.

The issue is that you are either a customer or you are not, meaning that companies can't keep their old SaaS solutions around just for historic data unless they wish to continue the subscription with the SaaS application. This is of particular concern with finance and accounting applications, as they are the core of the business intelligence, and the source for tax data, compliance, etc. Keeping the financial data for long term access is a requirement for most businesses.

Any small business - actually any business - electing to adopt SaaS-based solutions should give great care and consideration to how the business information might be protected and utilized in the event of a transition away from the online service. "In general, a lack of standards hampers the portability of data and applications between systems", says James Staten, an analyst at Forrester Research. He indicates that, while the popular hype implies that moving to the cloud doesn't require any heavy lifting, that's not true in some forms of cloud computing. "Particularly with software and platform as a service, vendors use unique and proprietary interfaces, application programming interfaces (API) and databases. Users and 3rd parties must program to those specifications in order to take advantage of the system. If they grow dissatisfied with the service, or if the vendor goes under, data and/or applications would need to be reformatted in order to switch providers or move it back in-house, which could be complex and costly."

Application hosting services may be a means to deliver the benefits of managed online application services to the business without also delivering the risks involved with SaaS application adoption. By providing access to business applications in a managed, secured environment, users gain the benefits of easy access and simplified IT management without also facing difficulties when discontinuing the service. Hosted applications offer the ability to return to an on-premises operating model, delivering the flexibility and the scalability the business needs without the concerns of loss of valuable business intelligence.
Your software is only a toolNo doubt you have heard and seen a lot from Intuit lately. They are heavily promoting what you can use Quickbooks for to make running your business easier. Export this...import that. Download quickly everything from your bank and credit card statements. Currently Intuit is trying to convince you to use Quickbooks on your blackberry, palm, or iphone.I have