If you’ve started a business, you’ve probably been focused on things like finding capital, raising profits, and improving your reputation. But don’t forget about taxes and all the obligations that come with it. Taxes are unavoidable, and it’s important to understand that the decisions you make now will significantly impact how much you owe at the end of the year.
Here are some things that every small business owner should know about taxes.
- Your legal entity has an impact on your taxes.
C-corporations, for example, have the power to deduct more expenses and include more shareholders, but their taxes are usually double the rate of S-corporations. In an S-corporation, taxes are lower because business owners can pay taxes at the shareholder level, but their company is limited to a small number of shareholders and they’re unable to take as many deductions.
Each legal entity will have a different tax burden and liability throughout the years. Taxes are just another reason that you should carefully research each legal entity to find the one that best suits your needs before opening shop.
Recognizing your potential tax burden is an important factor in choosing a business entity, but it shouldn’t be the only one. “While some of the tax considerations…may tip the balance when choosing an entity under particular facts and circumstances, it is difficult to know exactly which form will result in the lowest overall tax burden,” cautions an article on basic business entity tax issues from the law firm Morse, Barns-Barown, Pendleton. “It is possible, however, to be aware of the major tax differences to avoid surprises and prepare accordingly.”
- Pay estimated quality tax (and pay on time) to avoid fees.
Because you’ve taken the leap of self-employment, your social security and Medicare taxes will no longer be automatically deducted from your paychecks. When you’re an employee, your company pays half of your taxes to help relieve some of your burden. But when you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for everything, and you need to pay quarterly.
For most businesses, the typical dates for paying taxes are January 15, April 15, June 15, and September 15. Holidays or weekends may affect these dates slightly. If you’re an S-corporation or a C-corporation, you’ll need to pay a month in advance. Failing to pay on time will result in a fee dependent on your income bracket at the end of the year.
Because your income will likely vary from month to month, it’s hard to say exactly how much you’ll owe. When you’re small, you can make estimated payments and settle the remaining amount at the end of the year. When your profits grow, you’ll need an accountant to keep track of expenses and make sure you’re paying the right amount every three months to avoid discrepancies or an audit.
- Take advantage of available tax deductions—you can deduct more than you think!
Because you owe more taxes than the typical employee, but don’t necessarily make more money as a small business owner, the IRS offers some financial respite in the form of tax deductions. Their website says that businesses can deduct any expense that’s used expressly for your business. This includes the rent for your building, supplies, inventory costs, travel, and other necessary expenses.
If you run a business from home, you can also deduct a portion of your mortgage, utility bills, and other home expenses for your office. Any supplies and furnishings within that office are also deductible.
“Surprisingly, there isn’t some master list included in the Internal Revenue Code or provided by the Internal Revenue Service,” says Mark J. Kohler, author, attorney, CPA, and contributor for Entrepreneur. “There is simply the tax principle set forth in Code Section 62 that states a valid write-off is any expense incurred in the production of income. Each deduction then has its own rules.”
There are dozens of deductible items, but you should consult a CPA before claiming anything. With the advice of a professional, you can be certain that you’re deducting things correctly.
- Keep track of your expenses all year round.
When you see an accountant at the end of the year, they’ll ask for a list of your expenses so that they can deduct some of what you owe. Because there are so many possible deductions, it’s much, much easier to take care of this portion of your tax preparation if you’ve been writing down your expenses all year long.
“Haphazard or incomplete records are one of the biggest problems accountants see at small businesses,” says Scott Berge to CBS News. “Using accounting software to organize records will ease the process and help guard against costly errors.”
It may seem like an unnecessary expense at the beginning, but as your business grows and your taxes become more complicated, you’ll be grateful you planned ahead.