If you're still scrambling to get your 2010 taxes filed, take heart. Last year was awash with small-business tax deductions.
And since 2011 may be less so, here are six tax breaks to take advantage of now:
1. Extra-big business vehicle deduction. If you bought a vehicle used for business last year, you're in luck -- some of the biggest deductions for business vehicles in recent years apply to vehicles bought in 2010, thanks to a one-time $8,000 bonus depreciation rule. You can get a total of over $11,000 in first-year writeoffs for a new car or truck purchased after Sept. 8, 2010, and 50 percent of the bonus for vehicles purchased in the earlier part of last year. For 2011, expect maximum depreciation of around $5,000.
2. General business credits can be applied against the Alternative Minimum Tax. The normal rule is if you or your business has to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is applied to high earners, you cannot apply most business credits to the AMT portion of your tax. But for 2010, you can reduce AMT tax with general business credits.
3. Bigger, faster equipment write-offs. Rather than spreading a writeoff out over multiple years -- better known to accountants as depreciation -- you can write off up to $500,000 of new equipment that was purchased and in use in 2010 via the Section 179 deduction. This extends recession-era breaks that have been rolling for several years now.
4. Bonus equipment write-offs, too. If you bought more than $500,000 of equipment, you can write off the extra on your 2010 taxes as well -- 50 percent of the cost if you bought before Sept. 8 and put into use by the end of this year, and 100 percent if you bought after Sept. 8.
5. Double-deduction for self-employed health insurance premiums. Ordinarily, solopreneurs can deduct the cost of their health-insurance premiums from their profits, but the deduction doesn't reduce the gross-income figure on which self-employment tax is figured. This year, health-insurance premiums reduce both, helping to lower self-employment taxes, too.
6. Rising credits for employees' healthcare premiums. If you pay part of any employees' healthcare premiums, you can claim 35 percent of the cost as a tax credit. This healthcare-premium credit stays at this rate until 2013 -- and then goes up to a 50 percent credit, making it one of the few credits slated to rise.
The tricky part of this year's taxes is planning for estimated taxes for 2011. With all the uncertainty in the economy and in the outlook for next year's business writeoffs, it's time to take a best guess on what you should pay through the year.
My tax tip: Consult with a tax pro this season to plan your strategy for next April.
Are you done with your 2010 taxes? Leave a comment and let us know what credit or deduction helped your business most for 2010.