If you are a new business owner, you need all the help you can get to cut it in this highly-competitive economy.
Keeping your money for working capital rather than paying it out in taxes to Uncle Sam will give you an edge. Here are 10 tips to help you do just that:
Business structure. Sole proprietor, LLC, C or S Corporation, and partnership, are the most common structures. You can read up on the facts about Small Business Structures on the IRS website. Generally speaking, unless you are an experienced entrepreneur, it’s best to start simple as a sole proprietor or partnership. Once you’re up and running, you may wish to explore more complex entity types. Always discuss the decision with your tax pro and your business attorney.
Business Taxes. According to the IRS, there are five genera federal Business Taxes. You may also be required to file and pay state income taxes, sales taxes and possibly excise taxes. Make sure you familiarize yourself with these responsibilities for applicable business taxes. It can mean big and expensive trouble if you don’t.
Employer Identification Number (EIN). For all entities except for sole proprietorships, you will be required to obtain an EIN. If you’re a sole proprietor and you hire employees, you will also be required to get an EIN. Rather than using your Social Security number, which exposes you further to identity theft, I suggest that even a sole proprietor without employees get one.
Accounting Method. You will be required to select Accounting Periods and Methods. Generally, it’s either cash or accrual for method, though hybrid methods are available. Accounting periods are usually calendar year, although you may select a fiscal year if you incorporate. But there are rules as well as advantages and disadvantages which should be discussed with a tax pro.
Health Care Tax Credit. If you hire employees, you may want to consider providing fringe benefits. The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit helps small business pay for health care coverage offered to employees. You are eligible if you have fewer than 25 employees who work full time (including a combination of full and part time). For 2014, the maximum credit is 50% of the premiums paid. Check with your tax pro for all the rules. It can get tricky.
Estimated Tax payments. It’s important to understand how opening a business plays into your tax return numbers. If you are showing a profit for the year, you may be required to make estimated tax payments. The IRS Small Business Tax Center provides information you need to determine when, how much and if you need to pay.
Tax Planning. Whether or not you are a seasoned entrepreneur, it’s important to understand the tax implications of operating a business. Because your business is new, it’s a good idea to sit down with your tax professional to make projections and get tax tips that will help you save money come next April 15.
Accounting Software. Treat your business with financial respect. Don’t stuff a shoebox full of receipts to upturn on your tax pro’s desk next April. If you are serious about your business, purchase some decent accounting software that will provide you with financial statements, the ability to reconcile bank and credit card accounts, budgeting and projections. And if you can’t plug in the numbers, hire a bookkeeper to track them for you.
Cash paid expenses. Oftentimes a business owner will pay for items with cash or personal credit card. These receipts can be easily misplaced or lost or forgotten meaning more taxes than necessary will be paid because the deduction will be missed. Keep a large envelope marked “cash paid expenses” in your vehicle or in your office. Stow your receipts in the envelope. Quarterly post these expenses to the books. Allocate one credit card for business purposes only and track that card’s transactions on your accounting software.
Tax file. Start a tax file every January. Whenever you encounter a transaction with tax implications, stow the corresponding receipt or documentation in the tax file. For example, if you are headed to a trade show in Maui. If audited, you will need more than a credit card receipt to prove the trip was for business. Stow the flyer advertising the trade show in your tax file. Or if your business donates $100 to a bona fide charity. You need more than a cancelled check, make sure you also get an acknowledgment letter. Store the letter in the tax file. The IRS has been disallowing charitable deductions that cannot be backed up with the letter.