BBB tip: How to choose a tax preparer

This year, United States taxpayers must file their income tax forms before the April 18, 2023 deadline. Major life changes, business ownership, or a lack of knowledge about the ever-changing tax laws make finding a trustworthy tax preparer important. Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest (BBB) shares tips for finding someone you can trust with your finances and sensitive personal information.

How to choose the right tax preparer:

  • Review the tax preparer’s credentials. EAs, CPAs, and tax attorneys are all qualified to represent their clients to the IRS on all matters. Other preparers can help you with forms and basic matters but cannot represent you in case of an audit. Don’t be afraid to ask about these or other qualifications before you hire someone.
  • Be wary of spectacular promises. If a tax preparer promises you larger refunds than the competition, this is a red flag. Many such tax preparers base their fees on the amount of your return and may be likely to use shady tax preparation tactics. In addition, it’s wise to avoid tax preparers who offer “refund anticipation loans” as you’ll probably lose a large percentage of your return to commission fees.
  • Get referrals from friends and family. One of the best ways to find a trustworthy tax preparer is to ask your loved ones for recommendations. Once you have a few options, check org, paying careful attention to other consumers’ reviews or complaint details. This will give you a clear view of what you can expect.
  • Think about availability. If the IRS finds errors in your tax forms or decides to perform an audit, will your tax preparer be available to help you with the details? Find out whether you can contact the tax preparer all year long or only during tax season.
  • Ask about fees ahead of time. Before you agree to any services, read the contracts carefully and understand how much the tax preparer charges for their services. Ask about extra fees for e-filing state, federal, and local returns, as well as fees for any unexpected complications.
  • If things don’t add up, find someone else. If a tax preparer can’t verify their credentials, has a record of bad reviews from previous clients, or their business practices don’t seem convincing, don’t do business with them. Remember that if you hire them, this individual will handle your sensitive personal information – information you need to keep safe from corrupt or fraudulent tax preparers.

 

Read the full article on BBB.org.

Reprinted by permission of the Better Business Bureau, © 2023.

BBB: Nominations for Ethical Athletes Open

Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest (BBB), together with the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), are looking for the next BBB Ethical Athlete. The BBB Ethical Athlete Scholarship honors Arizona high school student athletes who do the right thing, no matter who is watching.

Nominations from parents, coaches, teachers, students and other community members are accepted. Applications share the story of what attributes make the student an ethical athlete and students must have a GPA of 2.75 or higher. Six winning students will be selected after scoring from a panel of community judges and awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

“In my heart I knew I had to tell the ref the truth as that is how I was raised. Ethics and integrity can be instilled in all of us,” shared 2022 scholarship recipient, MiMi Harris.

Nominated for the scholarship by her mentor, Harris received national media recognitions because of her decision to do the right thing, even though it cost her team the win. She is currently attending Alabama State University and plays on the women’s volleyball team.

Three Ethical Athletes will be selected from two nomination periods with applications received from January 1 to February 28 and again from March 1 to April 30. To learn more about the scholarship and to nominate Arizona high school athletes visit athlete.bbbcommunity.org. Sponsors who are interested in supporting this year’s scholarship can email scholarships@bbbcommunity.org for more information.

Reprinted by permission of the Better Business Bureau, © 2023.

 

 

BBB: 10 New Year’s resolutions for your small business

Scaling and sustainability will continue to be the main focus for any small business owner in 2023. There is a multitude of ways to go about achieving revenue growth, attracting top talent, instilling a healthy culture, delighting customers, and so much more. Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest (BBB) is sharing the following tips to ensure your small business starts off on the right foot this year. Read more in the full article on BBB.org.

  1. Continue building a strong digital footprint  – A solid content marketing strategy that will help you create valuable content pieces will drive engagement and sales. Read BBB’s tips on improving your website.
  2. Promote your business consistently  – Find ways to creatively promote your business to stay top of mind for your target customers. Check out BBB’s tips on how you can expand your current offerings for growth.
  3. Personalize the entire buyer journey71% of consumers feel frustrated when a shopping experience is impersonal, so offer products/services based on your customers’ purchase behavior.
  4. Embrace an effective technology stack – From social media to email marketing, every piece of technology you leverage to communicate with your customers must effectively impact your business goals. More specifically, here are five tips your business can start using today.
  5. Reduce costs – Here’s how small businesses can cut costs without sacrificing growth.
  6. Have a positive workplace culture – Your employees are the lifeblood of your company, and 94% of executives stated that distinct business culture is important to business success.
  7. Push customer reviews – Reputation can mean everything, especially for a small business owner trying to attract and retain customers. Approximately 81% of consumers say that they must trust a brand before buying a product or service.
  8. Exercise transparency – Operating with transparency builds authentic relationships that turn curious browsers into buyers, and buyers into raving fans.
  9. Be purpose-driven – By understanding what is most important to your customers, you can leverage their values and use your platform to make a larger impact over just making sales, and 66% of consumers are willing to switch from their regular product to a new one for a purpose-driven company.  Verify your social impact by applying for BBB4Good, a new program designed to elevate purpose-driven businesses.
  10. Establish trust – Trust and transparency matter more now than ever before. In a market saturated with companies competing for customers, BBB Accreditation gives consumers confidence that they are dealing with an ethical and vetted business. See the BBB Advantage.

Reprinted by permission of the Better Business Bureau, © 2023.

BBB Recognizes Ethical Athletes With Scholarship Program

Two $2,500 scholarships to be awarded

Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest (BBB), together with the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), are looking for the next BBB Ethical Athlete. The scholarship honors Arizona high school student athletes who do the right thing, no matter who is watching.

Members of the community can nominate student athletes and self-nominations are also accepted. Students must have a minimum 2.75 GPA and share their story on what attributes make them an ethical athlete. A panel of judges will screen and score the nominations. Two students will be selected and awarded a $2,500 scholarship.

“Being an ethical athlete is more than doing the right thing, it’s also about being honorable, dedicated, compassionate, trustworthy and reliable,” said BBB Pacific Southwest President/CEO Matthew Fehling.

Applications are now open until Sunday, May 1. To learn more about the scholarship and to nominate Arizona high school athletes visit athlete.bbbcommunity.org. Sponsors who are interested in supporting this year’s scholarship can email scholarships@bbbcommunity.org for more information.

 

Reprinted by permission of the Better Business Bureau, © 2022.

BBB Main St. Accelerator Program Now Open for Applications

Business program provides tools for success and growth

Better Business Bureau Serving Pacific Southwest (BBB) and GoDaddy Inc. (NYSE: GDDY) are now accepting applications for their 2022 Empower by GoDaddy and BBB Main St. Accelerator Program. The hybrid in-person/virtual program is open to those operating in Greater Arizona and Southern California, and will offer attendees educational classes, networking, mentoring and GoDaddy products to help their businesses grow.

The business development program is seeking established business owners looking to increase revenue, improve online presence and grow ethically. Unlike tech-focused business accelerators, the goal of this program is to serve everyday entrepreneurs who comprise the majority of our small business economy. As a nonprofit trade organization, BBB is ensuring the tools offered through this program meet the needs of tradespeople and mom-and-pop stores.

“BBB is dedicated to helping build better businesses with ethics at the forefront. Our priority is to ensure that business acceleration and education are widely available to all

entrepreneurs, which is why we have built this inclusive program with our partners at GoDaddy,” said Vice President of Innovation and Entrepreneur Programs at BBB, Kimberly Roland.

Participants will learn and work alongside leaders from GoDaddy, Better Business Bureau, Desert Financial Credit Union, Snell and Wilmer, Lifeguides and other industry leaders. Topics covered will include creating a standout virtual brand, website and e-commerce presence, leveraging ethical values, legal and financial auditing, marketing strategies and social and emotional support for entrepreneurs.

Applications are being accepted at bbbempower.com until mid-March and the cohort session of 50 businesses will run for two months. Accepted participants will receive a full scholarship that covers the cost of programming, valued over $3,000 and will be responsible for a one-time materials fee of $99 to BBB before the start of the program. For more information email innovation@bbbcommunity.org.

 

Reprinted by permission of the Better Business Bureau, © 2022.

 

New Program Offers No Interest Loans To Small Businesses

Help has arrived for entrepreneurs in Northern Arizona to boost their businesses with access to affordable capital. Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest (BBB) has partnered with Arizona Public Service (APS) to launch the Northern Arizona Kiva Hub, which provides zero percent interest loans to small businesses unable to access traditional capital.

Kiva pioneered personal microlending for low-income entrepreneurs and underserved communities by using a blend of community partners, municipalities and individual funders to offer financing with zero interest, no fees and technical assistance for small businesses.

The Northern Arizona Kiva Hub will support entrepreneurs throughout Apache, Coconino, Mohave, Navajo and Yavapai counties. BBB is the largest trade association in Arizona and works to raise awareness of marketplace ethics to build businesses that operate with integrity. To launch the program, BBB is proud to partner with APS, which collaborates with like-minded organizations to strengthen local communities in Arizona.

“APS is committed to helping our community thrive,” said Tina Marie Tentori, Director of Community Affairs and the APS Foundation. “We are excited about the community collaboration that developed this program and will bring knowledge and resources to entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout Northern Arizona.”

BBB has become the leader in igniting business growth by offering educational programming, mentorship, and access to online products. The addition of access to capital funding strengthens support for entrepreneurs during their journeys. BBB has two Northern Arizona campuses in Prescott and Lake Havasu City, which provide local access for rural business owners.

“In rural communities, small businesses can face additional challenges when it comes to accessing resources to help them thrive. With this new APS partnership and funding opportunity, entrepreneurs in Mohave County have a direct line of support to get their business journey off the ground,” shares Kryistyna Hook, Director of Media Relations and BBB team member located in Lake Havasu City.

Jose Anca, BBB Capital Access Manager is available to assist with the loan application, making the pathway more accessible for entrepreneurs. Kiva loans are generated through a crowdfunding model and Anca will work directly with small business owners, entrepreneurs, and diverse startups to pitch their concept to local lenders who will contribute to raising the funds.

“BBB provides a myriad of educational and technical assistance programs to entrepreneurs. We saw a massive need for interaction and capital for startups and entrepreneurs in Northern Arizona through our accelerator programs, particularly for minority and women-owned businesses. The Northern Arizona Kiva program will allow us to serve small business owners, especially in rural communities, in need of working capital to launch or survive,” shares Anca.

To apply

Kiva loans offer financing from $1,000 to $15,000 with zero interest zero fees. To apply, visit our website at kiva.bbbcommunity.org or contact innovation@bbbcommunity.org.

 

Reprinted by permission of the Better Business Bureau, © 2022.

Havasu High Student Wins Ethical Torch Essay Scholarship Contest

Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest (BBB) has proudly awarded five scholarships to high school students in Greater Arizona for their winning essays on “The Importance of Character and Ethics.” Held annually, the contest encourages students to write an essay about doing the right thing when they are faced with an ethical dilemma. This year’s scholarship program was sponsored by Swiss America and Valley of the Sun-Camelback Kiwanis Club.

2021 Ethical Torch Essay Scholarship Winners:

  • First Place of $1,500: Dylan Caton from Lake Havasu High School
  • Second Place of $1,250: Sonya Colattur from Xavier College Preparatory
  • Third Place of $1,000: Ella Hamer from BASIS Scottsdale
  • Fourth Place of $750: Joan Isabelle Walton from Xavier College Preparatory
  • Fifth Place of $500: Landen Patrick Knutson from Heritage Academy Gateway

First place winner Dylan Caton shared how integrity is more than a one-time action; it’s a way of living.

“People will always make mistakes, but owning up to your wrongdoing is what counts. It is never easy to give up a piece of dignity, but making that decision is the most valuable step in leading a life with strong moral principles,” said Caton.

Gary Sneed, Desert Financial Credit Union Sr. V.P. and Chief Lending Officer, acknowledged that educational expenses continue to rise for students; so they surprised each of the five winners with an additional $1,000 scholarship to help them soar.

To learn more about the Ethical Torch Essay Scholarship program, and to read the winning essays, visit scholarships.bbbcommunity.org. Applications for next year’s scholarship will open on January 1, 2022.

 

Reprinted by permission of the Better Business Bureau, © 2021.

BBB: Military families and veterans more likely to lose money to scams

Service members, military spouses and veterans all reported higher likelihoods of losing money and higher median dollar losses to scammers, according to the 2020 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. The study published by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (BBB Institute), analyzes scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker. Veterans reported a median loss of $133, military spouses reported a median loss of $132, and active duty service members reported a median loss of $269 – all of which were higher than the $115 median loss reported across all consumers in 2020.

“Historically, we’ve seen higher median losses reported by the military community,” says Melissa Trumpower, BBB Institute Executive Director. “2020 was the first year, however, that we also saw higher rates of military consumers losing money to fraudsters.”


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The loss reported across all consumers was 46.4%. Veterans reported a slightly higher loss at 46.8%. Military families reported the highest loss at 50.8% for military spouses and 59.7% for service members.

“The biggest factor contributing to these higher likelihoods of loss across the board was the increase of online purchase scams and scams perpetrated online in general,” says Trumpower. 

Online purchase scams were the riskiest scam for service members and veterans but the riskiest items purchased online were pets and pet supplies. The riskiest scam for military spouses in 2020 was employment scams. This included flexible, work-from-home opportunities found online that often involved fake check or reshipment scams. In the BBB Pacific Southwest region, online purchase and employment scams topped the list reported by active duty military and veteran consumers, with a total of just over $180k combined loss in 2020, according to BBB Scam Tracker. 

“We continue to work with our partners to combat scams that target the military and share prevention messaging through BBBs serving communities throughout North America,” Trumpower said. To learn more about BBB’s Military and Veterans Initiative, visit BBB.org/Military.

Reprinted by permission of the Better Business Bureau, © 2021.