Survey Says: Nothing Is Certain but Death, Taxes and Coffee

New surveys reveal some surprising findings about taxes, hiring and the role of coffee in the workplace.

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What's brewing? New surveys reveal some surprising findings about taxes, hiring and the role of coffee in the workplace.Are you ready for tax time? Apparently, most business owners are. But they're not quite as sure about the economic recovery -- and they're taking it out on their employees by slashing benefits. However, there's one, um, perk that few employers dare to cut. Here's a closer look at some of the latest small-business surveys.

Taxing Matters

Are you getting a refund on your business income taxes this year? More than 40 percent of small and midsize businesses owners in the latest Office Depot Small Business Index Survey say they are not. Maybe they're just confused about the tax code. Fewer than half say they understand the tax changes in their states. Surprisingly, the area causing the most confusion is not health insurance reform -- it's capital gains.

And if your business waits until the last possible minute to file income taxes, you're in the minority: An impressive 82 percent of small businesses submit their taxes by the end of March. (I wish I could be that on top of things with my personal taxes.)

Bosses Cut Back on Benefits

Based on the data in a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, business owners still have mixed feelings about economic recovery. In the last six months, 20 percent of employers say they've cut employee benefits -- the highest level since late 2008. The areas most often cut were health-care coverage for employees (91 percent) and for spouses and dependents.

On a more positive note, in the past six months, 38 percent of companies have rehired employees they had laid off during the recession. But that trend could be short-lived. If the economy doesn't improve, 46 percent of companies say they are "very" or "somewhat" likely to implement a hiring freeze.

Coffee Clash?

One benefit you don't want to take away is that free pot of coffee brewing in the break room. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. office workers say they couldn't make it through the workday without coffee, according to a recent survey by Alterra Coffee Roasters. Sixty-five percent of workers drink coffee at work (on average, three cups a day), and 30 percent say the brew helps them focus and be more productive.

Office coffee can be a source of bonding or battles among employees. Two in five workers enjoy talking with coworkers around the coffee maker. But 21 percent say coworkers who make a mess in the coffee area cause friction, and 25 percent say there's someone at the office who never steps up to make a fresh pot.

I don't drink coffee myself, but I've worked with plenty of coffee addicts in my life, so my advice to business owners is this: No matter how much you have to cut the budget, don't eliminate the coffee, or things could get mighty ugly.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports.

Tags: benefits, Business Trends, coffee, coffee break, economic outlook, employee benefits, health care, hiring, office coffee, Rieva Lesonsky, small business hiring, small business taxes, Survey Says, taxes

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