If the thought of a personal visit from the IRS leaves you trembling in the darkest corner of your receipt-strewn house, che
Personal Finance Help
Intuit's Quicken ($70; 800/811-8766, http://www.quicken .com) not only provides an easy way to balance a checkbook and track expenses; it can also make tax time easier for individuals and small businesses.
Tax Categories Quicken ships with a number of tax-related categories in which you group expenses, such as groceries and utilities, to gain a detailed view of how you spend your money. But you can also customize existing categories and create new ones to fit your tax needs. Say you're taking night classes related to your profession and want to track tax deductions for continuing education expenses. Create a new category (Lists: Categories & Transfers) called Continuing Education, with the subcategories Books, Tuition, and Fees, and mark each as tax related. And if you know the correct tax schedule for each expense, you can associate it with the correct form. Now, every time you enter an expense in that category, Quicken will track the amount you spend.
Tax Reports Once you've created your categories and used them to record transactions, Quicken lets you print either a Tax Summary Report -- a simple report that details your tax-related income and expenses for your accountant -- or a more detailed Tax Schedule Report, which assists the do-it-yourself tax filer by itemizing income and expenses under the relevant tax forms. Quicken uses the same information when you import your expense and income data into TurboTax, eliminating the need to enter it all by hand.
Quicken Tax Planner There's no worse surprise than completing your taxes only to discover that you're not getting a fat refund check after all -- and that you owe the government a payment on April 15. To avoid this, turn to Quicken's Tax Planner (Activities: Planning Calculator: Tax). This simple tool lets you enter salary information, current withholding amounts, and a variety of other financial information, to determine how much you'll owe at the end of the year. You can then easily adjust your withholding to bring your year-end tax liability closer to zero.
Gaining an Edge with MYOB
MYOB AccountEdge ($299; 800/322-6962, www .myob.com) has an amazing collection of tools for managing nearly every aspect of your business, including your year-end tax needs.
Inventory Management Whether your fiscal year ends in June or December, getting an accurate count of the products on your shelves is nearly as important as getting customers into your store or onto your site to buy them. While AccountEdge can't do the counting for you (you'll need to enter that data), it can print an Inventory Count Sheet (Reports: Inventory: Inventory Count Sheet), detailing your stock information so you can make sure your inventory and your shelves agree.
Quarterly Returns When you run your own business, you must pay quarterly income, unemployment, and withholding taxes. AccountEdge includes several tax and compliance reports (Reports: Payroll: Tax and Compliance) that make it easy to fill out the quarterly IRS forms. Each report indicates, by form and line number, the exact information you need to enter.
Free for All You don't often get something truly useful for free, especially without strings attached -- but that's just what MYOB AccountEdge offers.
Buy a copy for your business and fill out the form at http://www.myob.com/us/promo/acctfree, and the company will send a copy of AccountEdge to your accountant, free of charge. No more exporting data to Excel or forcing your accountant to thumb through a coffee-stained copy of your balance sheet: just e-mail your cross-platform data file and sleep easy (at least until you get the bill).
Intuit's QuickBooks Pro 6.0 ($300; 888/246-8848, http://www.quickbooks.com) uses an intuitive checkbook-ledger interface to keep your business finances in line. And it includes a long-awaited feature: easy data-file conversion between Mac and Windows versions of QuickBooks. Now when you want to send a copy of your data file to someone who uses Windows (as most accountants do), just select File: Create A File For QuickBooks Windows. When your accountant makes changes and sends the file back to you, QuickBooks for Mac opens it without a hitch.
Living Free from Fear
Collecting all the information necessary to create a legitimate tax return isn't much fun, but it beats the heck out of sitting in a sweat-stained chair, face-to-face with your not-so-friendly neighborhood IRS agent. And if the IRS does come calling, you'll be well prepared. Just keep in mind that when your tax situation is complicated, it's wise to bring in a professional.
Compose Your Own Cards
When you can't afford a professional graphic designer to create your business cards, try Business Card Composer, from BeLight Software ($40; http://www.belightsoft.com). Version 2 has 30 new designs and provides links to an online print shop that can deliver finished cards to you within days; you can also print your own cards. -- terri stone
6 Safari Secrets
Explore the Internet more boldly with these tips for Apple's free Safari browser (http://www.apple.com/safari/) tucked under your cap:
1. Check Your Spelling Safari is a Cocoa application, so it can access OS X's built-in spelling checker whenever you type in a text box. For example, if you're in Macworld.com's discussion forums, the easiest way to avoid errors that may make other posters snicker is to enable the Check Spelling As You Type option (Edit: Spelling). It marks misspelled words with the standard red underlines. Control-click on them to see and select suggested replacements. Safari remembers your preferences and makes sure it's on whenever you're typing in a text box. If you don't want the spelling checker on all the time, you can press 1-; (semicolon) after you're done typing. The program will leap to the next misspelled word. Repeat as necessary to go through your text and identify each goof.
2. Find That Link If you hit a broken link and suspect that the page you want to see has moved to a new spot in the site, Safari makes finding that page easy. Just 1-click on the window's title bar and choose a higher-level directory from the pop-up menu that appears.
3. Stop Typing Don't like entering contact information repeatedly in online order forms? Select Safari's AutoFill option in the Preferences window. Safari will fill in contact information taken from your entry in the systemwide Address Book, so make sure you've created an entry for yourself there. Safari will guess at a lot of other fields in Web forms. You ask it to fill in forms by clicking on the AutoFill button in the toolbar.
4. Open PDFs Painlessly A PDF file on the Web can be annoying, since you must download it, open it in Acrobat Reader or Preview, and then see whether it contains useful information. For a more efficient approach, download and install Manfred Schubert's free PDF Browser Plugin (http://www.schubert-it.com/pluginpdf/). It lets you view PDFs in Safari (and some other Web browsers), complete with zooming and printing. You can even use it to open PDFs in your default PDF viewer.
5. Don't Get Stuck If Safari seems to get stuck in the middle of downloading a GIF image on a particular Web page, try freeing it up with the age-old Mac shortcut for "Hey, stop that!" -- the venerable 1-. (period).
6. Seek Out Shortcuts For a stealthy list of Safari keyboard and mouse shortcuts, type this URL into the address field and press return: file:///Applications/ Safari.app/Contents/Resources/Shortcuts.html. -- adam c. engst