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Social media in the workplace carries risks

Also: Online video can help sell products, and how estimated tax payments work.

March 08, 2010|By Karen E. Klein

Estimated taxes: An item in the Small Business In Box article in Monday's Section A about tax payments for the self-employed said estimated taxes must be paid in four annual installments. The IRS and the state of California require the self-employed to estimate what they owe and pay that amount in four equal payments during the year. —

Dear Karen: My employees use social media such as Facebook and Twitter at work. Is this a security risk?

Answer: Like e-mail, social networks can expose businesses to viruses and computer hacking. Employees should be careful about clicking links or interacting with people they don't know. Employee training and written policies can help, said Mike Hrabik, chief technology officer at Solutionary, an information security company in Omaha.

Specify which sites and technologies your employees can access at work. "Consider establishing what kind of content they can publish online. Be sure that all information shared on a public medium complies with your company's guidelines," Hrabik said.

Web video can pull in customers

Dear Karen: Everyone tells me I should have video on my website. We sell a simple product with nice pictures. Do I really need video?

Answer: If you're selling a well-established product, video may not be crucial, but it is becoming expected. If you're selling a new product -- or a new twist on an old one -- video can reassure buyers of its usefulness.

"Think of online video as your chance to have a personal conversation with your new customers. Show them your product, why it is so great, what features it has and how to use it," said Laura Beken, co-founder of HandBookLive, a website that features video-based handbooks.

A quick guide to estimated taxes

Dear Karen: What are estimated tax payments?

Answer: When you work for an employer, various taxes are withheld from your paycheck. When you are self-employed, federal and state taxes are not withheld from your income, so the IRS and the state of California require you to estimate what you owe and pay those taxes in four annual installments.

They're called estimates because you estimate how much to pay to cover your federal and state income tax and self-employment tax liability. If you don't make these payments, using IRS Form 1040-ES, "you may be subject to penalties, interest and a big tax bill at the end of the year," said Jim Sharvin, a CPA in Torrance.

Questions? Write to Karen at or In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

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