Posted on March 5, 2009
Filed Under (Advice, Compliance, General Business, Social Media) by jennifer

Raise your hands if you have gone onto Facebook or LinkedIn or sent an instant message to a friend or sent a Tweet while at work. Okay, I think that’s pretty much everybody. (You may now put down your hands.)

While using social media and instant messaging (IM) services is commonplace these days, their use is posing a big problem for businesses, especially for companies that need to preserve all electronic communication in the event of a lawsuit. So what’s a business owner or manager to do? First off, read my new article titled “Social Media — The Next Smoking Gun” on, the Web’s leading site for all things having to do with managing and storing electronic data.

In the article, I interview CA’s senior vice president and general manager of Information Governance, Galina Datskovsky, who is an expert on social media in the workplace — who reminds us that it was not that long ago that companies were wringing their hands about the use of e-mail in the workplace.

“I had one attorney friend who said to me, ‘I will never allow e-mail in here. They can just fax me the stuff,'” she said. Some 10 years later, this same attorney friend walks around with a BlackBerry.

So what is the key to managing the social media and instant networking tsunami? It’s not to bury your head in the sand and ignore the problem, she said, but rather to think about the implications of social media from a security, privacy, productivity and bandwidth point of view and create policies around its use.

To read what Datskovsky had to say and learn what you can do to control social media and instant networking in the workplace, read my article, “Social Media — The Next Smoking Gun.”

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So my editor at asks me to write a piece on ecommerce stuff you can get for just a few bucks, things like ring tones. While other writers may have jumped at the idea of cyber bargain shopping, I declined. Ring tones just don’t ring my bell, I guess. I asked if she had anything else and she responded that that was the most exciting story she had (in her opinion) — unless I wanted to do a piece on Internet sales tax.

Now I am not an accountant nor am I a finance geek, but I do find taxation to be an interesting (and highly confusing) subject, and the thought of shedding some light on this complex issue excited me. So I accepted the assignment.

You can read the finished article, “Navigating Sales Tax Laws,” by clicking on the article title, by visiting, or going to the Clips page on my website,

For those of you too busy to read the whole article just now, here are five must-know pieces of advice from the article:

1. The primary determinant of whether or not you need to collect and pay sales tax is if you have a physical presence in the customer’s state. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Determining whether you have a physical presence, or a level of activity that would require you to collect — and remit — sales tax, what taxing bodies refer to as “nexus,” can vary from state to state. It may be owning or renting property in that state, having a warehouse or a fulfillment house that maintains inventory for you in that state, having employees in that state or promoting your business in that state through something like a trade show.

2. To learn more about nexus and what your state’s guidelines are for determining it, do an online search with the name of your state and the words sales tax and you should be directed to your state’s Department of Revenue Services. You can also visit the Helpful Information page on the Sales Tax Institute’s Web site. Under “Sales Tax News and Tips” you can click on the topic called “Nexus.”

3. Once you determine nexus, you need to figure out which items in your inventory are subject to sales tax in those states you have nexus in, explains Richard Stim, a Nolo editor, small business attorney and entrepreneur who writes about Internet sales tax. Again, your state’s revenue services/tax-related Web site or the Sales Tax Institute should be able to provide you with this information.

4. You cannot legally collect sales tax without being authorized to do so, which means being registered in those states in which you have a physical presence. “Collecting tax without having a valid license is considered criminal fraud, and you could go to jail,” says Diane L. Yetter, the founder of the Sales Tax Institute and the president of Yetter Consulting Services, Inc. So it definitely pays to register.

5. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you don’t register or file a sales tax return? “If you have never filed a sales tax return and have never been registered for sales tax, the state could audit you,” says Yetter. “The average sales tax across the country is eight percent. So let’s say you did $100,000 of sales a year in a state where you had nexus, where there was sales tax. And you didn’t collect the sales tax. The state could come and get eight percent of that $100,000 plus interest plus penalties for every year you didn’t collect and pay sales tax. That could put you out of business.”

Want to learn more? Read my article. You can also check out the following sales tax-related sites:

» Sales Tax in the United States (Wikipedia)

» The Sales Tax Institute

» The Sales Tax Clearinghouse

» The New Rules Project’s Internet Sales Tax Fairness page

» E-fairness

» The Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement

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Posted on September 28, 2006
Filed Under (Compliance) by jennifer

Here is a troubling statistic from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer information and advocacy organization: Since February 2005, the data records of more than 93 million U.S. residents have been exposed due to security breaches. Although the more well-known breaches — ChoicePoint, Bank of America — were at large companies and institutions, many of these breaches occurred at small businesses, the result of hacking and/or someone’s laptop being stolen.

Companies of all sizes need to take precautions to keep customer data safe and secure, but how much security is enough? Does the size of your business matter (NO!), and what is an organization’s responsibilities regarding its customers’ privacy? (You need to have a privacy policy posted!)

I recently spoke to several experts to learn what steps small business owners can take to ensure that they’re in compliance with the latest privacy laws and how they can protect their business — and their customers — in the event of a security breach.

Here are the links to my two-part article on the subject, which contains great, easy-to-implement tips and advice as well as a helpful list of resources: (Part 1) (Part 2)

Be safe and prosper…

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