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Bully bank, Wells Fargo is accused of overcharging small businesses

(FINANCE NEWS) Wells Fargo is back in the spotlight, this time for allegedly bullying small businesses into big fines.

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Wells Fargo flop

Wells Fargo’s reputation took another hit this week when small business owners filed a class action suit at a New York federal court.

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The small businesses claim that they were misled and overcharged by Wells Fargo’s Merchant Business Services.

Scheming

The suit calls Merchant Business Services an “overbilling scheme” that was “designed to deceive customers.” Filing the suit are Queen City Tours of North Carolina and Patti’s Pitas, a restaurant in Pennsylvania.

Touring company Queen City Tours opened a contract with Wells Fargo’s Merchant Business Services in October of 2015. Because it is a seasonal touring company that does little to no business during certain months of the year, Queen City negotiated with Wells Fargo that their contract would not include minimum monthly charges.

Nonetheless, Queen City claims that Wells Fargo continued to penalize them for failing to meet monthly minimums.

Queen City also says that they were charged a monthly billing fee, even though they had opted for electronic billing, which was supposed to exempt them from the charge.

The other company, Patti’s Pitas, alleges that Wells Fargo attempted to “confound and confuse” them by using a “back-billing” system to charge them high fees for credit card transaction in previous months.

A trap!

Both companies say that they were entrapped by Wells Fargo’s exorbitant termination fees. Patti’s Pitas says they were continuously charged even after going out of business. Queen City Tours, fed up with the sneaky fees, attempted to terminate their contract with Wells Fargo and were told they would be charged $500.

The suit also complains that the 63-page long Business Services application contained “voluminous legalese that could not possibly be read in its entirety or understood.”

Also that the fine print contained provision allowing Wells Fargo “to charge whatever it wants even if such fees and rates are vastly different and higher than those that are clearly set forth in the application.”

Wells Fargo denies the allegations, telling Consumerist that their fees are “fair and administered appropriately.”

Still recuperating

The bank is still recovering from last fall’s revelation that, under pressure to meet demanding sales goals, employees opened millions of fake accounts.

That scandal led to the resignation of CEO and Chairman John Stumpf. His unpopular replacement, Stephen Sanger, was narrowly elected at a heated shareholders meeting in April. Experts predict that Sanger will likely be ousted in an upcoming board shake-up.

#WellsFargoWoes

Ellen Vessels, Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for her wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when she's not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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Business Finance

How to invest in any cryptocurrency without the IRS hunting you down

(FINANCE) Paying taxes on your cryptocurrency investments doesn’t have to be a headache with this simple tool.

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token tax for cryptocurrency capital gains

As the 2018 tax season approaches, those of you who took a chance on cryptocurrency may be wondering: Do I have to pay tax on my digital investments? Sorry, but yes you do.

Although tax laws are constantly changing, especially in the wild west of cryptocurrency, fear not. Token Tax is the one tool to rule them all, and can help you report cryptocurrency taxes.

In this past year, cryptocurrency investment has skyrocketed. The total market cap rose over 1000 percent, even breaking a record and climbing over $600 billion in December.

Coinbase, the most popular online platform for buying and selling digital currency, gained one million users in one month alone.

Cyrptocurrency’s increasing popularity led to changes in IRS rules.

Although cryptocurrency investors were previously able to use the “like-kind” tax code exemption, the IRS now says digital investments must be taxed as short and long-term capital gains.

Back in 2015, only 802 Americans reported Bitcoin related gains and losses. At the time, cryptocurrency could technically be categorized a property instead of income. The 2017-18 year should show a greater increase in reports due to the new IRS regulations.

It can be difficult to determine how to report your taxes, and many other available tools victimize you with information overload. Understanding your tax liability is no fun at all, but it’s not something you’d want to get wrong unless tax jail sounds exciting.

The newly minted Token Tax does the work for you, integrating directly with Coinbase’s API to import all your investments in an easy to read format that’s directly exportable to the IRS. Kraken, Bittrex, and GDAX are also securely integrated with the platform.

Using FIFO, Token Tax calculates your tax liability and displays it in an easy to read interface. You can then export a fill-out 8949 form directly to your accountant or the IRS for review.

Creators Alex Miles and David Holland Lee say they believe Token tax “could be the TurboTax for crypto.”

Even though Token Tax is still in test mode, not even beta, it caught our attention by winning first place overall in Product Hunt’s Global Hackathon.

If you have invested in cryptocurrency and want to get ahead of the curve for tax season, check out their demo and see for yourself.

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Business Finance

Crypto gets trendy – earn digital currency for taking steps

(FINANCE) Crypto is on exciting, not just with values skyrocketing and falling from day to day, but with new ways to earn and invest.

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fitness tracker sweatcoin crypto

If investing actual money into cryptocurrency isn’t your thing, consider investing calories instead. Sweatcoin — a free app for iOS and Android devices — allows you to do just that.

The premise behind Sweatcoin is simple: you earn virtual currency for a certain number of steps. When you’ve earned a certain amount, you can redeem your Sweatcoin earnings for a number of different rewards, including things like vouchers for yoga classes, fitness apparel, and Apple products (e.g., an Apple watch or a new iPhone).

In order to begin earning with Sweatcoin, you just need to install the app, turn it on in the background, and start walking. This means that you’ll need the app running for the duration of your workout, so make sure that your battery is charged and that you’ve allowed the app to access your location services before heading out into the great unknown that is your cul-de-sac.

There are a couple of minor caveats for Sweatcoin, the first of which is its overhead fee.

While you don’t have to pay to use Sweatcoin, you’ll only “take home” around 65 percent of what you earn. This is in part due to Sweatcoin’s fraud prevention services, so it’s for a good cause — just don’t count your virtual chickens before they compile.

Another issue with Sweatcoin is that it only counts your steps when you’re outside. If your preferred method of walking, running, or skipping (if that’s your thing) involves a treadmill, you’ll need a pretty long extension cable.

The final caveat is that, unlike other cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum, your earnings won’t compound. Sweatcoin is contingent solely on your activity, not on market behavior or current investments; if you’re looking to build up a crypto portfolio, this probably isn’t the ideal venue for you.

Of course, your body is perhaps the strongest asset that you can own, and investing in it is more likely to have serious long-term benefits than is investing in any kind of cryptocurrency. This is the largest benefit of Sweatcoin: it incentivizes you to work out and take extra steps (literally) long enough for doing so to become a habit. That’s hardly a downside.

If you don’t mind an extra few (thousand) steps per day, Sweatcoin is worth checking out.

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Business Finance

Freelancers: How to stop billing hourly and get the cash monies you deserve

Working as a freelancer isn’t easy. Despite the hard work, many professionals choose this route in order to escape the daily grind of working for an hourly wage. Why, then, do clients still insist that freelancers charge them by the hour?

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Value-based billing

Working as a freelancer isn’t easy. Despite the hard work, many professionals choose this route in order to escape the daily grind of working for an hourly wage. Why, then, do clients still insist that freelancers charge them by the hour?

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You became a freelancer to get away from the mindset that each hour of your time is worth a certain number of dollars. So if you are still billing your clients an hourly wage, you may want to seriously consider shifting to value-based billing.

Each hour is not worth the same amount

Robb Eng, a senior marketer and writer for Web Design Ledger, provides some valuable advice for freelance web designers, but his tips hold up for any freelancer who would like to get free from “the trap of trading hours for dollars.”

First, Eng describes some of the problems with billing by the hour – and if you’re already doing it, these should sound familiar to you. For starters, each job requires a number of different skillsets. Some parts of the job require intense concentration and all your years of experience and education. Other parts any amateur could do in their sleep.

Averaging these disparities out into an hourly wage is tricky – and billing different rates for different tasks is far too burdensome.

Besides being confusing and inconvenient, the biggest problem with hourly billing is that it causes the client to focus too much on how fast you can deliver the task, rather than how well.

Quantify your goals

That’s why it’s so important to shift the paradigm to one of “value-based billing.” As a freelancer, you must show the client the value of your services – in other words, how they will benefit the business. Eng gives an example of a website redesign that could increase profitability by $100,000. When you think about the total value your work will bring to the business, suddenly charging $10,000 or $20,000 looks like only a small fraction of the total value you are providing.

When you asked to be paid relative to the total value you are providing from the business, it changes your role from wage worker to co-collaborator.

Instead of stressing about the bottom line, you are working together with the client to maximize profit for both parties.

To convince hourly billers to switch to value-based billing, you may have to ask some questions. As much as possible, get an idea of the quantifiable goals of the project. How much will the project increase profit, lead generation, or conversions? Try to charge between 10 and 20 percent of the value you’ll be providing for the client.

Price plans and tiers

Next, offer a few different price plans, because people love options. You can charge a flat rate for each service, a monthly or yearly rate for ongoing maintenance, or you can provide several tiers of services at different rates.

Of course, before you get to these steps you’ll need to find out if your client is open to value-based billing. If not, consider walking. If so, be sure to maintain positive relationships. Nothing adds value to a job like a trusting relationship.

#NoMoreHourlyWages

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