Overlooked Business Expenses - Tax Deductions

For small business owners, every dollar counts. While you work hard to make more profits from the business, your income and self-employment taxes can be still too high for you to afford. Carefully review your tax return and check if you’ve deducted all expenses qualified for deductions. Surprisingly, you may still miss a few.

Here is the list of commonly overlooked business expenses. The list is not intended to be applicable to everyone.

- Advertising & promotional giveaways
These include flyers, catalogs, etc

- Audio, videotapes and DVDs to improve business skills.

- Bank service charges on business accounts
Monthly charges, penalties & fees, check printing and writing fees are deductible.

- Business association dues
I.e., dues for professional associations are deductible Under the Other Expenses category.

- Business gifts
You can deduct up to $25 to any one recipient per year.

- Business-related magazines and books
Books, subscriptions to magazines, newspapers, and other publications can be deducted.

- Casual labor and tips

- Casualty and theft losses
When your business-related property is destroyed or damaged by a natural disaster or theft, you can deduct the losses.

- Coffee, beverage and snack services
These can be deducted under the Office Expense category.

- Commissions
Commissions paid to referrals, salespeople, or companies are deductible.

- Computer software and applications used for business

- Consultant fees
Professional fees paid to accountants, attorneys, or web programmers are deductible. These include administrative costs related to the professional services.

- Costs of entertaining clients

- Credit bureau fees

- Education to enhance business skills

- Interest on business credit cards or loans

- Office supplies
Office supplies used to operate business is deductible. Remember office supplies are different from supplies for your products. Supplies to produce business products are included in costs of goods sold.

- Online computer services related to business
Fees paid to internet service provider can be deducted.

- Parking and meters

- Petty cash funds
A petty cash fund is a small fund of money reserved for incidental expenses, i.e., money used for office supplies.

- Postage, freight, delivery, and post office box charges

- Promotion and publicity

- Repairs of business equipment

- Seminars and trade shows

- Taxi and bus fare

- Telephone line for home business
A separate telephone line for home business is deductible.

- Telephone calls away from the business

Home Office Deductions - Tax Deduction Information

When you work from home, you can get benefits from the home office deduction. Some people may think that the home office deduction will significantly increase their chance of being audited by the IRS or it’s very difficult to qualify for the home office deduction guidelines. But as long as you follow the requirements and keep good records of all business-related expenses, you shouldn’t be worried about being audited too much.

Regular and exclusive use
To get the home office deduction, you must regularly use a portion of your home exclusively for your business. The IRS doesn’t specify what “regular use” means, but the guideline is that you must use the space for business on a continuing basis, not occasionally or frequently. You also use that portion of your home “exclusively” for business, which is a more difficult requirement to follow. The space must be used only for business. If you use the space for personal purposes as well as business purposes, you won’t be qualified for the home office deductions.

Here are some practical ways to qualify these requirements:

  • Use furniture such as a room divider if you want to deduct a portion of a room for business.
  • Get a separate phone line for the business and keep it in your home office.
  • Have regular meetings with your clients at your home office and keep logs of the meetings.
  • Use your home office address for your business mailing.

Administrative and management work
When your work is mainly performed outside of the home office, i.e. you’re a contractor or gardener, you can still deduct home office as long as you meet these requirements:

  • You use the home office for administrative and management activities.
  • There is no other fixed location to do such activities.

Amount of the home office deduction
The amount of the deduction should be accurately calculated from the portion of the home office to the whole residence. If your home is 1000 square feet, and your home office is 200 square feet, the portion of your home office is 20% of your entire place, and you can deduct 20% of the money that you spend to maintain your residence.

Main expenses that you can deduct are rent if you rent, or mortgage interest, property taxes and any association fees if you own. You can also claim deductions for utilities, home-owner’s or renter’s insurance, general maintenance or repair fees that affect your home office, etc.

LLC - Get Full Liability Protection From Your LLC

One of the most significant reasons to form Limited Liability Company (LLC) is to get liability protection. As a corporation provides a legal shield against their shareholders’ assets, an LLC offers legal protection for the owner’s or members’ personal assets from business claims or debts. The risk of the LLC owner and members is generally limited to the amount of their investment.

However, when your business is in a trouble such as a lawsuit, the court might go after you and your personal assets, especially if you have a single member LLC and haven’t followed certain rules with your LLC.

Here are some important basic rules to follow when you have a single member LLC:

1. Create separate business banking accounts and credit card accounts. When you open them, use your EIN, not SSN. An EIN is a federal employer ID number issued by the IRS. You can get it fast and easy from the IRS website or over the phone. With the EIN, you don’t have to worry about your SSN passing around among your clients, and your business accounts look more adequate.

2. Fund your limited liability company adequately. Don’t intermingle your LLC funds with your personal transactions. When you receive payments from your customers, make sure payments are made to your company name, not to you.

3. Be clear with books. Keep your personal transactions from the company accounting books. Buy supplies, parts or equipments using your business bank account checks or business credit cards. Not only it differentiate your business from you, but your LLC can also build credit history.

4. Use your company name when you sign any contracts or agreements. Look carefully if it has a provision of personal guarantee.

5. Keep your limited liability company records and documents properly.

Disregarded Entity Definition - What is a Disregarded Entity?

What is a disregarded entity?
A disregarded entity is a business entity which is considered to be an undivided part of the owner of the entity for federal tax purposes. That is, the entity is disregarded as an entity separate from the owner.

A good example of disregarded entities is a single member LLC that does not choose to be classified as a corporation for federal tax purposes. A single member limited liability company that is not classified as a corporation automatically defaults to a disregarded entity, and file federal income tax return as a sole proprietorship.

How does IRS treat a disregarded entity?
IRS does not require a disregarded entity to file a separate income tax return because the assets of the disregarded entity are considered as the assets of the owner of the entity. The entity is allowed to be taxed as a “pass-through” entity on its owner’s personal tax return. The income, deductions and loss of the disregarded entity are included in its owner’s return.

Why use a disregarded entity?
The owner of a single member LLC who does not want to pay additional federal income taxes for the business entity can choose to be a disregarded entity. That is, the owner of the disregarded entity just needs to file Schedule C with their personal income tax like a sole proprietorship.

This post is not intended to constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services or to serve as a substitute for such services.

Estimated Taxes - Questions and Answers

What Are Estimated Taxes?
The US tax system requires you to pay taxes as you make money. You’re required to pay taxes throughout the year as you earn income rather than waiting until April 15th.

When you’re employed, you don’t really have to worry about this because your employers take care of it for you. They withhold taxes from your paychecks.

It’s more complicated when you are self-employed, when you don’t have enough money withheld, or when you earn additional income in real estate, investments, alimony or other means. You may need to pay quarterly estimated taxes yourself not to pay penalty.

Who Needs to Pay Estimated Taxes?
The general guideline is that you should pay estimated tax if your withholding and credits don’t cover 90% of your current year’s tax liability.

More precisely, you must pay estimated tax if both of the following apply:

1. you expect to owe at least $1,000 in tax after subtracting your withholding and credits
2. you expect your withholding and credits to be less than the smaller of;
90% of the tax to be shown on your current year’s tax return, or 100% of the tax shown on your previous year’s tax return.

Who Does Not Need to Pay Estimated Taxes?
1. You do not have to pay estimated taxes to the IRS if your current year’s tax due will be less than $1,000 after subtracting withholding and credits.
2. You do not have to pay estimated taxes if your employers withholds enough money to cover your current year’s tax due.

How Much Estimated Taxes Do I need to Pay?
1. When you have relatively regular income
If you’re self-employed and you have relatively steady income or it’s easy to estimate your income, you can calculate how much you owe by using the worksheet of the IRS Form 1040-ES or your finance management software.

2. When you have irregular income
If it’s difficult to estimate how much money you will make this year, the easiest way to deal with estimated taxes is to pay the same amount as the last year’s tax bill. This is called “safe harbor rule“. You can avoid underpayment penalty as long as you pay 100% the last year’s tax liability.

When Do I have pay Estimated Taxes?
Estimated taxes are due four times per year:

April 15th
June 15th
September 15th
January 15th

If these days fall on a weekend or holiday, the due date is the following business day. If you do not pay enough tax by the due date of each payment period, you may be charged a penalty even if you are due a refund when you file your income tax return.

How Much Should I Pay Per Installment?
Usually you’re expected to make your estimated tax payments in four equal installments. If it’s tricky because your business is seasonal or your income is uneven every month, you can annualize your income by using the IRS Form 2210. With this form, you can avoid or lower the penalty of underpayment of estimated taxes. Another way to avoid the penalty is to go with safe harbor rule when it’s hard to make equal installments.

How Much Underpayment Penalty Will I Owe If I Don’t Pay Enough Estimated Taxes?
If you don’t pay estimated taxes on time or don’t pay enough estimated taxes, you may have to pay a penalty for underpayment of estimated taxes. For example, your tax due for this year is $15,000 and you’ve only paid $12,000 for this year’s estimated taxes, you are $1,500 short of the 90% of the threshold, $13,500. In this case, the IRS will access a penalty on $1,500.

The amount of the penalty is based on the general underpayment interest rate under IRC Section 6621.