I'm starting a new business publishing a quarterly magazine on disk. I'm not sure, since this is not a paper publication, if I need to charge sales tax in my own state. . . . Thanks. Donna

Hi, Donna. . . . The general rule is there is no sales tax on publications. However, if they [the government] wanted to get sticky, they might decide that you're selling a computer disk and therefore you should collect tax....Get a ruling from your state tax authority. You can get the address from your local municipal offices....Don

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Welcome to small-business assistance in the 1990s. Donna sent her message via one of the most interesting new projects of the U.S. Small Business Administration: an electronic bulletin board called SBA On-Line. The system, launched in October 1992, has been successful far beyond projections, receiving more than half a million phone calls in its first year. The key: the bulletin board allows users to download SBA information and trade tips with other small-business owners.

The bulletin board started out being free for users, with eight 800 lines sponsored by Sprint; but by the system's one-year anniversary, Sprint was footing the bill for 48 lines. "We can't afford to sponsor that call volume," said Tom Murphy, Sprint's director of national sales programs. As a result, SBA On-Line is scheduled to switch to 900 status this month. Details had not been worked out at press time. According to Murphy, new users should dial the 800 numbers "at least through January." During that time, the 800 numbers will probably connect users to one part of the database.

For more information about SBA On-Line, through January 1994:

If you have a 2,400-baud modem, dial 800-859-4636.

If you have a 9,600-baud modem, dial 800-697-4636.

If you have a problem, telephone the SBA at 202-205-6400 or the SBA Answer Desk at 800-827-5722.

-- Martha E. Mangelsdorf

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