Updated Non-Profit Sales Tax Guide

After researching the Hotel sales tax question, I made some changes to the main guide/intro page - added some additional documentation to send under the "apply for your exemption" section, and added a couple more links under Additional Information at the bottom.  Ah, the subtle beauty of bureaucratic publications...haha.  They say mostly the same thing in different publications, but not entirely.  It must have to do with the culture, being so specific and restrictive, yet not being able to be completely consistent all the way throughout due to the extent of the restrictiveness.   Specific, accurate, and yet flexible - a difficult combo.

Is Hotel Tax reimbursable?

A non-profit client asked today if Hotel tax can be reimbursed.  I couldn't remember if it was among the taxes not allowed, so I went and looked at the bulletin to refresh my memory.    The state part of the tax is reimbursable to exempt non-profits, but the local and occupancy tax is not.  The state part of the tax is the full non-food tax rate, and gets included with all the other non-food tax.  Remember to identify which county it was in in the QuickBooks memo line. Hotel Tax


Are Public Schools exempt from Sales Tax in NC?

The short answer is yes and no. North Carolina exempts public schools (and most other governmental entities) in the same way it does non-profits.  They are exempt, but they must pay sales tax at the point of sale, then file to be reimbursed by the state.

This round-about process may seem a bit backwards.  But walk a mile in a retailer's shoes; they are already required to collect, track, and remit sales tax for the state (without getting paid for the work).  What would it be like if you had to also verify each person/entity’s non-profit status, not collect their sales tax, and track and report those sales separately?  A freaking nightmare.  Therefore, in an act of benevolence, the DOR has established a compromise: that public schools non-profits pay sales tax at the retail point of sale (like everyone else), but then (unlike everyone else) they can request that the amounts be paid back to them by the state.

(For confirmation of the rule, please see Sales Tax Technical Bulletin 18, items 1 and 4.)

If you work for a public school and would like to know how to file for reimbursement for sales tax, it would be best to contact your school's finance office for next steps.  There will probably be an exemption number already set up for your school or district.   Keep in mind that if you yourself are being reimbursed by your school for supplies or other expenses, the sales tax paid on your expenses is not eligible for reimbursement.  It's only eligible on purchases made by the school directly.  Another good reason to check with your finance office.

Hope this has helped!  Best wishes.

Document sync services considered

Dropbox Logo It was about a year ago that I found out about Dropbox, and immediately downloaded it and started using it.  Because it was the first one I ran into, I briefly assumed they were the first one to do cross-computer file syncing.  But it turned out that SugarSync for one had been around longer, had more features, and offered more free storage.  I still use Dropbox because it's integrated with so many other applications, and because so many people are familiar with it and use it as their main file sync/sharing service.

SugarSync logo

A few months ago I switched to using SugarSync as my primary service, purchasing the discounted year's subscription.  I chose them for three main reasons.  1) I can choose which folders will sync and which won't (as compared to having only one Dropbox folder) 2) They offer the widest variety of platform apps, including Linux, Blackberry, and even Windows Phone.  3) It's possible to securely share files with password protected links, and it's possible to layer additional security onto their platform.  But with new offerings on the market, I'm wondering whether I'll stick with them long term.  The Verge recently did a pretty good comparison for the main players in the sync market - check it out here.

Spideroak Logo

The new one that has caught my interest is called Spideroak.  "Huh, strange name."  Then I looked at what they're doing.  They're applying a high-security model of access and encryption that's known as TNO or Trust No One.  This is the level of security required by HIPPA regulations when anything is handled by a third party.  It basically means, "I'm the only one who has the keys to my locked files, and I'm not going to share them with anyone."  In this model, everything is encrypted before it leaves your computer so that you are the only one who can unlock and read the contents.  It's then sent over a secure SSL encrypted internet connection, stored on remote servers, and synced to your other devices.  When on their servers, they have zero access to the file contents, because they were locked before you sent them and Spideroak doesn't have the keys.  Dropbox and SugarSync on the other hand, transmit and store your files encrypted, but they also have the keys to unlock them.  Spideroak has structured things so they never have the key to unlock your files, only you do.

To date, I've offered an additional level of security on top of other sync services using TruCrypt, a free open source encryption app.  This allows me to do the same thing Spideroak is doing - encrypt and lock files before they are sent to the cloud.  But it takes an extra couple of steps each time, and took some time to set up.  So now I'm seriously looking at Spideroak  because they have integrated it into their sync solution.  Less work for me, same level of security.  I'm liking that.

Happiness/Doing what you love

"The path to happiness is to do what you love." I've heard this from different people and perspectives.  Early in my life, I took this to heart and thought that if I just did what I loved, everything else would fall into place without much effort.  Then I ran - smack - into the practical realities of supporting myself in a world where money is necessary!  Hah!  My lack of financial awareness skills and abilities became a barrier to doing what I loved...and I learned that a lot of meaningful activity needs the support of planning and a pocketbook.

So I still believe this sentiment...in a slightly modified version.  Doing what you love, doing something meaningful, is definitely part of the big abundant, delicious, human happiness pie.  But a) it needs to be tempered and balanced with the practical aspects of life, and b) there is something to be said for being happy no matter what you are doing.  Mastering that second one is the real key to happiness in my book.

If you have a business, what meaning does it provide? Does it help you to do what you love?

What is happiness?  How much is your happiness dependent on what happens in your business?

Integrating Mind and Heart

Chinese for MindfulWhy integrate the mind and the heart? It takes both to create something really meaningful. Did you know that the Chinese calligraphy character for “mindful” is actually two characters in one?  It is composed of jin which means "now; this" and xin which means "heart; mind".  So at least in one language, mindful can mean “the awareness of the mind and heart, together in the moment.”  What a beautiful thing.  The space that's created when we practice the non-judgemental part of mindfulness is a beautiful avenue for the heart to express itself, and for the mind quiet down.

When that happens, the mind and the heart become receptive to each other, and they start integrating.  Inspiration flows, new ideas form, and deeper values surface.  You calm down, feel more grounded, and get clarity on what needs to happen next.  You are able to connect more easily the deeper meaning of your business (the why); with your dreams and goals for your business (the what); and the practical things that have to happen to move things forward (the how)

What do you mean by "Mindful" Financial?

What is Mindfulness? Many people when they hear the word mindful, think of meditation and Eastern religion.  And while there are a lot of references to mindfulness in both those places, mindfulness is actually practiced by a lot of different people from a lot of different traditions.  When boiled down to its essence, mindfulness is the practice of nonjudgmental awareness.  It is accepting everything just as it is - right here, right now.  It is being aware of your emotions and desires and thoughts, while not being critical of them or becoming attached to them.

Want to learn more?  Contact us or sign up for our Mind over Money tips.