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  Online Communities Help Raise Start-Up Cash
  by Lisa Gerstner, Kiplinger.com

For Phu Nguyen, 25, and Peter Seid, 22, inventing Romo, a robot controlled by a smart phone, was the easy part. The hard part for the co-founders of Romotive was gauging the market's interest in their prototype, finding developers to create phone applications for it and raising money to assemble more robots.

They turned to Kickstarter, a Web site anyone can use to gather funds from supporters. Last fall, the Seattle pair raised more than $80,000 in about a month – more than double their $32,000 goal – and found like-minded innovators, too.

Sites such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and Peerbackers help people raise money for projects of all sizes, from films to furniture-making. You explain your idea and offer rewards to backers. Romotive promised a button to folks who pledged $2, for example, and a trio of robots to those contributing $212. Some sites release funds raised only if you meet your goal. Many charge a fee, often about 5% of the money you raise.

It helps to set clear and realistic goals for the money you want to raise and the number of products you can prepare and deliver.

  1. Think carefully about how you'll engage the network.
  2. Use videos and photos to showcase your vision.
  3. And set aside plenty of time.

On top of developing the robots, Romotive's founders spend one to two hours per day updating their backers on the firm's progress and responding to e-mails, Nguyen says.

Reprinted with permission. All Contents ©2012 The Kiplinger Washington Editors. www.kiplinger.com.

  A Taxing Time of Year

The new year means it's time to start gathering all of that dreaded documentation to send to good old Uncle Sam! Taking just a few simple steps right now will make your tax filing far easier and more accurate.

Keep it together. Make a quick list of all the documents or statements that were needed to complete your return last year—or call your tax planning professional for a checklist. As you receive tax documents in the mail, grab your checklist, and mark the item as received. Then, keep all of the tax documents together in a large file or envelope marked "2011 TAXES."

Do the math. According to the IRS, the most common mistake on tax returns is bad math—from transposed numbers to downright incorrect data. And with one form leading to another, those errors can make a huge impact. Even if you use tax software, you're not off-the-hook—since it only adds the numbers YOU put in. Double-check entries carefully.

Every last cent. The IRS receives copies of your Form 1099 earnings each tax season. So, they know how much you make in interest and dividend income, and they will use that info to double-check your filing information. Make sure you collect all your earnings statements and document them on your return.

Sign on the line. It sounds almost silly, but forgetting to sign a return is actually a fairly common oversight. And the IRS won't process a return that doesn't have a signature. So, make sure you sign to avoid resubmitting your paperwork and possibly paying late-filing fees.

By following the tips above, you can help eliminate some of the frustration from tax season, as well as make sure you're on track for the coming year.

   IRS Announces Mileage Rates for 2012

Drive a car, truck or van for work? If so, you'll want to make sure you know thestandard mileage rates that the IRS has set for 2012. These mileage rates are used to calculate deductible costs for driving an automobile for business, charitable, medical and moving purposes.

As of January 1, 2012, the standard mileage rates are as follows:

  1. Businesses = 55.5 cents per mile driven
  2. Medical or moving = 23 cents per mile driven
  3. Charitable organizations = 14 cents per mile driven

The rate for business miles is unchanged from the mid-year adjustment that became effective on July 1, 2011, and the medical and moving rate has been reduced by 0.5 cents per mile.

Before you calculate your deduction, make sure you qualify. The IRS reminds taxpayers that they cannot use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle.

In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously. However, the IRS is accepting public comments on this policy.

The IRS' standard mileage rates provide ease and convenience. However, you're not required to use them. If you prefer, you can calculate the actual costs of using your vehicle instead of using the standard mileage rates.