With just a few weeks left in 2012, there’s very little time left to implement ideas that will result in tax savings for the year.
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But don’t throw in the towel just yet
, there are still some steps you can take
Section 179 Expensing: Furniture, equipment, software, vehicles and capital assets are normally subject to a write off over their useful life.
For example, if you buy a desk, the useful life is seven years. To take the write off you must spread out the cost over seven years. Equipment, vehicles and software have a five year useful life.
Section 179 expensing is an exception to tax law and was created to encourage capital asset purchases. This section allows you to write off the entire cost on your tax return in the year of purchase. So consider making necessary purchases now before year end, but be sure to consult with your tax advisor because there are plenty of rules and limitations surrounding this deduction.
Startup Expenses: Did you know that you may write off the expenses you incur in the investigatory or startup phase of your business? Eligible expenses include planning, consulting with professionals, training employees and all other ordinary and necessary expenses incurred to get your business off the ground. This deduction works once the business is operational, so if you are still in startup mode on Dec. 31, you must defer the deduction to 2013. The IRS defines an operating business as one that has opened its doors or is accepting transactions.
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You can deduct $5,000 of business startup expenses. If your total exceeds that, you may amortize the remainder over 180 months. There are special rules and limitations, so discuss this area with your tax professional.
Set up or Fund your Retirement Plan: Your business needs working capital, but don’t forget about funding your future. Contributions made to retirement plans reduce your taxable income. For 2012, self-employed individuals can contribute $17,000 as a 401(k) deferral, plus 25% of net income. Check with your plan administrator for limits and deadlines for different types of plans.
Party! Holiday festivities provided for your employees are 100% deductible. Parties for clients and associates are 50% deductible. But there are rules. You must have a business purpose and that consists of more than just promoting goodwill or networking and the expense cannot be lavish or extravagant. Check with your tax pro or look at IRS Publication 463 to ensure that you are in compliance.
Expense Account Reimbursements: Gather together all those receipts for business expenditures you paid out of personal funds and have your business reimburse you before year end. If your business is operating as a C Corporation, be sure you have an accountable expense plan in place. Post your expenses to a spreadsheet and total by category of expense. Attach all receipts to provide bona fide back up documentation and then cut yourself a check and know that you have just reduced taxable income.
Charitable Contributions : Check with your tax pro to find out if you should be giving personally or if it’s better for gifts to be made from business funds. And don’t forget to get those acknowledgment letters. The IRS has been auditing and disallowing contributions without that backup document. A cancelled check is not enough substantiation.
However, with the expiring of certain favorable tax provisions, rates are expected to go up next year. You may want to implement a strategy of postponing tax deductions to next year and taking capital gains and other income this year if you can. Sit down with your tax pro to determine the most financially-sound route.
Bonnie Lee is an Enrolled Agent admitted to practice and representing taxpayers in all fifty states at all levels within the Internal Revenue Service. She is the owner of Taxpertise in Sonoma, CA and the author of Entrepreneur Press book, “Taxpertise, The Complete Book of Dirty Little Secrets and Hidden Deductions for Small Business that the IRS Doesn't Want You to Know.” Follow Bonnie Lee on Twitter at BLTaxpertise and at Facebook.