1. Work with an accountant
No matter how you slice it, taxes are hard. Most small business owners have to pay the IRS quarterly, so there are lots of deadlines to keep track of. Not to mention deductions to consider and documents to organize. An accountant can help, especially one paired with an accounting solution that makes record-keeping and income reporting easy. Look for someone who has experience in your industry, is communicative, and within budget.
2. Report all your income
The IRS will match any income reported against actual income received — and those numbers need to match. Be sure to report all income received, even if you don’t receive official payment records. If you use automated accounting software to track income and deductions, reporting income is as easy as importing that information directly to your tax return. Otherwise, you’ll have to track all transactions manually and fill out the correct tax forms to report your income.
3. Keep extensive records
Inadequate record-keeping puts your small business at risk for an audit. Don’t leave money on the table. Keep records of all your income and expenses, including gross receipts, interest payments, sales and return records, income statements, employee wages paid, insurance costs, office rent and supplies, and travel costs. Invest in smart accounting software, like QuickBooks, to help you keep track of it all.
4. Classify your business correctly
Are you a C Corporation, S Corporation, Limited Liability Partnership, Limited Liability Company, Simple Member LLC, or Sole Proprietor? Your business classification affects the taxes you need to pay, how much you pay, and when you pay. Work with an accountant to determine how your business should be registered and classified, and reassess your classification annually.
5. Stay on top of payroll taxes
The IRS checks every quarter to see if you’ve paid your payroll taxes. Payroll taxes are any taxes paid on the wages of employees. They’re typically used to finance insurance programs, like Social Security and Medicare. These taxes are the second-largest source of government revenue in the United States. If you’re using a payroll service, make sure they’re paying your company’s payroll taxes consistently. Or you’ll be on the hook.
Keep track of these common tax deductions:
- 20% business income deduction
If you report your operations on a 1040, you could qualify for the 20% deduction on business income. Keep more of your earnings tax-free and curb high tax rates.
- Home office deduction
If you use a home office to perform work for your business, you can claim a deduction for utilities, rent, and even cleaning fees. Additionally, you can fully write off the cost of purchases like computers, furniture, and equipment. If you rent an office space or storefront, you can deduct that too. You can’t deduct travel costs between your home and place of business. But you can deduct business-related trips throughout the day.
- Startup costs deduction
Deduct amounts paid to create a trade or business, to run advertisements for the opening of the business, and for travel to secure prospective distributors, supplies, or customers.
- Insurance deductions
If you pay for business insurance, health insurance, malpractice insurance, etc., you can deduct those insurance premiums on your business taxes. If you are self-employed, you can also deduct the costs of your personal health insurance premiums.
- Retirement plans deduction
Retirement plans give you and your employees a tax-favored way to save. And you can deduct the contributions you make for yourself or your employees.
- Meal deductions
If you’re traveling or meeting with clients, you can deduct up to 50% of the meal expense, as long as the meal isn’t extravagant. For business meals, you must talk business either before, during, or after the meal.
- Research and development expenses
You don’t have to be a scientist to claim this deduction. As long as you’re investing in discovering new information that is technological and for the development of a new or improved business component, you qualify.
Of course, it’s always best to work with an accountant to ensure you’re claiming the right tax deductions and maximizing your return. There are tons of tax breaks out there for business owners, from business travel and gift deductions to work opportunity credits. A qualified accountant can help you find them.
Myranda Mondry is a copywriter and researcher for TSheets by QuickBooks, an employee time tracking and scheduling software that's used by businesses worldwide. Based in the up-and-coming tech community of Boise, Idaho, she has a journalism degree from Boise State University and a serious passion for helping small businesses succeed. In her spare time, she can usually be found curled up with a good book or hiking Boise's famous foothills.