The year 2003 is almost over, but it’s not too late for businesses to take advantage of incentives passed by Congress earlier this year.

Congress has increased from $25,000 to $100,000 the amount small businesses can write off on new equipment purchases, and the Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA) recommends the tax break be used to invest in new technologies.

“Strategic improvements in technology are a great way for small businesses to bring more value to customers, improve productivity and operate more efficiently,” said Andrew Levi, chairman of ITSPA.

Based in Dallas, ITSPA is a national, non-profit alliance that helps small to medium businesses (SMBs) understand how local technology providers can help them grow.

“By increasing their reach through technology, SMBs can potentially increase both sales and profits,” Levi said. “But they must act now because the tax cut, which allows small companies to depreciate 50 percent of their new equipment costs in the first year, must be taken before Jan. 1, 2005.”

New equipment at bargain prices

Small businesses that take advantage of the tax break also will realize enormous savings when they replace older equipment, according to ITSPA Executive Director Russell Morgan.

“PC prices, for instance, have dropped more than 40 percent since the Y2K scare in 1999, and the costs of software and other high-tech equipment such as printers and servers aren’t far behind,” said Morgan. “By buying new technology now, small businesses also can level the playing field by giving themselves the same reach and capabilities as larger companies. Technology allows them to perform critical marketing functions themselves, such as producing professional-quality sales collateral and building a convincing Web presence.”

In addition to buying new PCs, printers, servers and software, ITSPA’s technology committee, which includes information technology executives from the nation’s most successful solution providers, offered tips on other strategic purchases small businesses should consider.

Tips to consider from ITSPA:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems … Enable small businesses to coordinate remote sales and manage customer interactions.

  • Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) … Allow sufficient time to save data during a power outage or brownout. These systems have seen dramatic price drops in recent years and are affordable for even the smallest companies.

  • Backup Solutions … Software that ensures data is backed up and stored off-site.

  • Firewall Protection … Small businesses with Internet connectivity should have firewall software installed, then do intrusion testing to ensure the system works.

  • Virus Protection … Every PC should have virus protection installed along with automatic virus signature updates.

  • Wireless Networking (802.11b) … This relatively new technology, which has matured and is a lot cheaper than in the past, boosts worker productivity with high-speed, always-on connections.

  • Spam Filtering Devices …Unsolicited emails, which drain small business resources, can be reduced by installing a gateway filter. This inexpensive device stops most spam before it becomes a nuisance.

  • Mobility Solutions … “Voice Productivity Networks” and “thin-client” systems can be installed to provide mobile- and remote-office workers with business applications no matter where they are located.
  • ITSPA: