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Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.
There always seems to be plenty of advice at the end of the year about legal tasks that small business owners need to complete. Yet, if you are like most of my clients, December is too busy with holidays and vacations and January and February are equally hectic. OK, but no more excuses.
Now that we're staring down March 1, here are five legal tasks that I recommend my small business clients complete to start the new year off right:
1. Conduct employee evaluations: Make the beginning of the year your business' time to conduct annual reviews of employees. Written evaluations are important for rewarding good performance and for documenting areas of improvement. Make sure you know how to properly conduct evaluations and that you complete this legal task each year at a fixed time.
2. Review your business contracts: Now is the time to review your building lease, your vendor contracts, and your equipment leases. Pay attention to when the contracts expire. Note what areas you want to renegotiate and where you can cut costs for 2012.
3. Review your insurance policies: Pull your insurance policies out of the drawer and call your agent. You may have changed locations, expanded, downsized, or changed employees in 2011. Make sure that you have adequate coverage for the current state of your business.
4. Get ready for taxes: W-2's and 1099's should be issued for your employees and contractors by January 31st. However, there are many other important tax deadlines just around the corner. The IRS provides a calendar of important tax dates for small businesses to help you stay current with your business' tax responsibilities.
5. Make sure your business postings are current: The Department of Labor provides information about Federal DOL poster requirements for small businesses. OSHA also provides a free on-site consultation for small businesses. Take advantage of these free resources to make sure your business is up to date with employment and safety in the workplace postings.
If your New Years' resolution was to start your business off right in 2012, be sure to complete these five legal tasks.
Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law .