I am filing for the first time my tax returns (on zero profit) and feel like I need to get these forms (100s, 1120s) checked by an accountant...are there any free services like this for first-time business owners?

Thank you!

Rieva Lesonsky: While you can certainly file corporate tax forms, like Form 1120 yourself, I recommend you don't. These forms require you to have a lot of information and it is quite easy to make a mistake and overlook something. I am not aware of any free services that can look over your tax forms to see if you've done them correctly, since anyone reviewing your form would need to have a working knowledge of your business.

Filing taxes is not the place to be penny wise and pound foolish. Hiring a tax professional to do your taxes is a better move. A tax pro knows what the IRS is looking for (making you an audit target), is up-to-date on the very latest in tax laws (state and local) and is aware of "compliance" issues that make small corporations face.

If you are looking for an accountant for your business, ask business owners you know who are in a similar situation as yours. Word-of-mouth is best, since you can stipulate what you're looking for right up front. Even though we've been in business a year, we just recently hired a CPA. He already pointed out something we did that was wrong and I wish we had hired him earlier. When we realized we need a tax professional, we asked our insurance broker for a recommendation.

If you don't have or want to spend the money, I would recommend you search through your network to find a CPA or tax professional and try to barter (exchange an equal value of your services for theirs). Remember that you are required to report barter transactions to the IRS, but now that you have an accountant, you shouldn't have to worry about that.

One of the little known tools out there is right under your nose. Many financial institutions have well-trained staff who are there specifically to help customers with their financial questions. You may want to make an appointment or simply walk into your neighborhood bank and ask if someone there can help you. And if your bank doesn't offer such support, check another bank - they'll likely be pleased to help and have the opportunity to demonstrate to you why they may be a better choice for your business banking. Having a business banking concierge can be a real value add and could open you up to options that may be better suited for your needs.

I'm looking to apply for an SBA loan to help maintain my business in these tough economic times, and to help us grow over the next year. Are there SBA lenders in my area that are more women friendly than others? How do I decide which lender will give us the best chance of being approved?

Rieva Lesonsky; Jane Pak: Rieva says: In my recent interview with Karen Mills, Chief Administrator of
the SBA, she mentioned that women, minorities and vets are three to five
times more likely to get SBA loans. To find a women-friendly bank, ask other
NAWBO-LA members what banks they've had success working with.

Jane says: It's important to realize that you shouldn't COUNT on a bank being more or less women-friendly. Money doesn't see gender. Focus on the basics of lending from a bank's perspective - how much do you need to borrow, how do you plan on paying it back and what proof or evidence can your business show in the promise to deliver on the payback? Best chances of getting a bank to loan you money is based on the case you can make that you will be able to pay back that loan. Also, remember - there are several different SBA loan programs - it's important to understand the difference between them, their variable terms and who offers what loans. Before you set out to look for a bank, make an appointment to meet with a lending specialist at the SBA first. Here is the staff contact list at the SBA - Los Angeles Office, at the bottom left you will see the lending specialist department. You should reach out and schedule an appointment. They can help you with understanding the lending environment - what you need to prepare - how to prepare it - and who may be interested in lending to you.

We are currently looking for small. local banks in the Venice, CA area. So something local to California, not a big, national bank. I have contacted Cal National, but have had no luck finding any others with a web search. Does anyone know of any? We are looking for a small business loan.

: Thank you for submitting a question to AskNAWBO-LA! There are many "small" local banks in Los Angeles. Finding the right financial institution always requires doing some homework. Depending upon your business side and needs, you may find that different banks offer different services and/or incentives. If you're looking for a small business loan and potentially your future business financial institution, you may want to join NAWBO-LA and SBA on July 8th at our very first "Road to Recovery" event for women business owners. A full presentation on access to capital will be presented and lenders will be in attendance. That is probably a great opportunity for you to meet business banking representatives from numerous small and large banks. You'll also learn who is lending specifically to small businesses and how to get started on accessing those funding sources. A week before the event, we will announce all the financial institutions that are confirming their attendance so you know who's coming!

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