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Evolve

A Sustainable Design Blog

Business Law 101

by Jennifer Stewart | Aug 9, 2011 | Opinions

Apologies for the long hiatus. As was stated in an earlier post, we spent last week packing up the office and moving Ursusy out to Seattle. That’s right, we’re west coast people now. A big and exciting move like this comes with it’s fair share of ups and downs such as discovering all new tax codes and business laws! Sound painful? Well it can be unless you have the right resources.

I'm a big proponent of hiring professionals over attempting to do-it-yourself. I love doing our bookkeeping because I like to play with numbers, but I'm still going to use a CPA to check up on me and prepare the taxes.  I'm not going to take a legal course and attempt to write my own contracts over the course of months when I could pay to have a lawyer prepare my documents in a few hours (without my inevitable sloppy mistakes). That being said, walking into a meeting with a lawyer or accountant without any legal or tax knowledge would be like walking into a 300 level math course without knowing your multiplication tables.

So what's the best way to take a crash course in the legalities of owning a business without feeling like you've crashed into a wall? You could certainly search the internet for useful websites such as your state, county and city departments of revenue. In my experience working in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Business Tax Department is full of some of the nicest people on earth who are happy to listen and help. Even the IRS has hotlines to answer your questions.

The Small Business Administration provides excellent legal guidance, both general and specific to your area. Trade associations are also an excellent resource for finding books and resources regarding the laws that apply to your business.

Of course, there are always a plethora of books out there to help you with every possible topic. For legal and tax knowledge, one of the best series of books is NOLO. They provide comprehensive and easy to read/understand books about saving money on taxes, preparing legal documents, writing business plans, and a whole host of other legal topics associated with both business and personal life. Many even have sample legal forms on discs. They are also updated frequently (the tax guides are yearly) and can often be found at your local library.

Have you found any resources that have helped you learn the ways of the business world?

Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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