Is your business ready for tax season? While you may only have to file income taxes once a year, it's something you should be thinking about year round. Many business decisions you make will have tax implications and knowing those ahead of time can save you a lot of money.
You should be visiting your tax person at least quarterly, as well as any time you're making a major decision. Consider them part of your strategic team that helps you make the best decisions possible.
Here are 10 things you should be discussing during the year to reduce your liabilities--and stress--when tax time rolls around.
1. Change in type of business entity. Tell your tax person if you've changed your business formation--sole proprietorship, Limited Liability Company, corporation, etc.--in any way.
2. Fixed asset changes. Did you buy, trade or sell any of your fixed assets such as property, plants, equipment or vehicles? If so, provide your tax accountant with the dates and dollar amounts of all related transactions. This could affect your tax liability because of depreciation.
3. Use of subcontracted services. If you paid an outside subcontractor more than $600 in a calendar year and the subcontractor is unincorporated, you will need to supply a 1099 form. It should be postmarked no later than January 31 of the following calendar year.
4. Changes in employee status. Hiring employees means additional items to file. Tell your tax person whether you're handling payroll in-house or outsourcing it. Also, make sure your W-2s are completed by January 31.
5. Equipment leases. The two different types of leases available--operating and capital-- require different handling for tax purposes. Capital leases typically are longer term and sometimes end with the lessee taking ownership of the equipment.
6. Withdrawals from the company. As business owners, we typically take our compensation in the form of payroll and owner's equity withdrawals. For tax purposes, these should be kept separate and classified appropriately. Payroll is classified as an expense, but withdrawals are considered an equity reduction.
7. Personal investments into the company. If you've made investments into the business, make sure they aren't classified as income so that you don't pay taxes on them. They should instead be classified as an increase in owner's equity investment.
8. Loan payment structure. Are your loan payments broken out into principal reductions and interest expense? Separate each payment and record the interest expense on your profit and loss statement and update the loan principal amount on your balance sheet.
9. Mileage. If you're using personal vehicles for business purposes, give your tax accountant a log of your mileage so you can take the appropriate deduction.
10. Documentation. Once you have prepared your data for your tax accountant, keep your documentation for the appropriate length of time in case of an audit.
While tax time can seem like a lot of work, it doesn't have to be if you're maintaining your records throughout the year and consulting your tax person for proactive advice. After all, your accountant can't provide you with the best possible service if you only call once a year.
And smart tax strategies like these not only keep you organized, but they can also help you significantly reduce your company's tax liability. So, regardless of how far off April 15 may seem, keep these 10 potentially money-saving factors in mind.
Pam Newman is Entrepreneur.com's "Financial Management" columnist and president of RPPC Inc., which helps entrepreneurs succeed in their businesses through small-business training and consulting services in the areas of accounting and management. She's also the author ofOut of the Red, a management accounting guide for small-business owners.