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Top 10 Tax Write-Offs for Small Business Owners

Top 10 Tax Write-Offs for Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, tax season can be a stressful time. With all of those forms to mail to employees, expenses to track, and checks to write to the IRS, no-one could blame you for dreading the month of April. But beneath the bureaucratic onslaught, there is one shining beacon of hope: deductions, deductions, deductions. For the small business owner, deductions are a world of plenty.

Like everything to do with the IRS, the rules around deductions can be nuanced, so it’s important to do your research, talk with an accountant, and use a good tax calendar to stay on track of regulations and deadlines. Advises Austin-based Certified Public Accountant, David Coffman, “Make sure to keep good detailed records supporting your deductions for at least 6 years, and fill out the proper forms correctly and completely.”

Here are just a few deductions you won’t want to miss:

1. Travel Expenses

Rest assured that when you stay overnight at a hotel while conducting business away from home, that night will be fully tax-deductible. In fact, every night you spend away for business purposes will also be deductible, as will 50% of any meals you eat out (with or without a client in tow), any rental cars and plane tickets, and sometimes even transcription or translation services while traveling abroad.

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Thinking of extending your stay for a little vacation time? As long as the purpose of your trip is mainly for business, you can still deduct your travel costs to and from the destination. “However,” Coffman cautions, “expenses specific to the personal portion are not deductible.”

No matter what, just make sure to keep good track of your receipts regardless of the total (yes, even if it’s below $75).

2. Auto Expenses

Do you use your car for business? Do you own a company car? Some of the costs associated with gassing up and maintaining that car will be deductible. For 2012, you’ll be able to deduct 55.5 cents per each mile driven, as well as all business-related tolls and parking fees. Don’t just eyeball this, especially if you only own one car—it’s a red flag for IRS eyes. Keep track of the exact miles you drive, enter them into your accounting system or hand them to your bookkeeper, and include a detailed description for each recording.

3. Current and Capitalized Expenses

It’s easy to confuse current and capital expenses, so it’s worth defining them separately. Current expenses are things like rent and electricity bills—those ongoing costs that keep both your office and your business up and running. Capitalized expenses, on the other hand, are expenditures like equipment and vehicles. Current expenses are simply deducted from your business’ yearly gross income, while capitalized expenses must be deducted over a number of years. A general rule of thumb is this: if an item has a shelf life of longer than one year, it’s capitalized. That being said, many items such as office supplies and repairs can be deducted as current business expenses, but only after your business has opened its doors. Before that, they’ll be capitalized. Confusing? Maybe, but understanding these distinctions and filing accordingly will be well worth the effort in the end.

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4. Software and Subscriptions

Once upon a time, businesses looking for deductions in the area of software and subscriptions had to depreciate the cost of computer software over three years; see current vs. capitalized expenses. Now, however, computer and software expenses can be cited as expenses up front using the Section 179 election, just like magazine subscriptions.

5. Health Care Costs

Though exact amounts and procedures will differ based on the type of business filing you have, many health care costs are deductible for small business owners. For proprietorships, health insurance premiums are 100 percent deductible on Form 1040 as an adjustment to income, though that deduction can’t be more than your business’ net profit, and the deduction is void if you’re eligible for any other kind of health coverage—including those of your employed spouse. However, if your spouse worked for your business, then his or her premiums are also fully deductible.

Things will be a little different if you’re filed as a C-Corporation. In this case: “Health care costs, including out of pocket expenses, are deductible as a business expense under a health reimbursement arrangement,” says Coffman. You’ll want to contact accountant to get this set up at least in your initial year as a C-Corporation.

6. Bad Debts

It’s never any fun when a client doesn’t pay or a vendor doesn’t deliver, but if you’ve got a bad debt on your rolls, it may be deductible, but only for accrual basis rather than cash basis taxpayers (learn the difference here). Says Coffman, “If an accrual basis taxpayer has billed for his goods and services, he may write off as a bad debt any amounts not collected. A cash basis taxpayer may not write off uncollected fees for services or goods, but may write off the cost of the goods that were not paid for.”

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Unfortunately, this applies only to goods, not to services, which are a lot more difficult to quantify. Alas, you truly cannot recover lost time.

7. Home Office Deductions

Home office deductions are popular among small business people. If you work from home, you can deduct for depreciation, utilities, insurance premiums, mortgage interest and repairs. However, the deduction counts only for that space, and you must use the area regularly and exclusively for business. If you think this is a good excuse to get a break for all of that yard landscaping you’ve been paying for, think again: the rules around this deduction are strict, and it is often a trigger for audits, so learn them well before filing incorrectly.

8. Business and Professional Fees

If you’ve bought business books, paid any fees to lawyers, tax professionals and more, and their service is clearly related to this year’s activities, these all qualify as deductions. However, if these fees relate to future years, they’ll need to be deducted over the life of the benefit they provide.

9. Retirement Contributions

If you’re self-employed and contribute to a SEP-IRA or Keogh, these can all be deducted on your personal income tax return.

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Adds Coffman, “This is one of the few areas where you can claim a deduction in the current year for amounts paid in a later year. You get to see the effect of the deduction before you actually commit to it. Some plans, however, must at least be established prior to the end of the year.”

10. Phone Calls

Business-related phone calls are fully deductible, even if you conduct them on your personal cell phone or home phone. As with mileage, you just have to keep good records that separate the business calls from the personal ones. A good way to do this is to circle business calls and write a description on your bills, total them up and keep a copy to be added into your final returns. If you add a second line or buy a cell phone that’s dedicated primarily to business, you’ll be able to fully deduct any regular fees and charges associated with the line.

Take-Away

When tax season comes around, there’s a lot for small business owners to think about, and just as many deductions to benefit from as well. Do your research, keep abreast of the latest regulations, and contact a good accountant early in the year to get it done right. Don’t wait until the last minute, or you may miss out!

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How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

Does it ever feel like the things you want to accomplish always end up on the back burner? If the answer to that question is “yes,” you’re not alone. Only about 33% of people consistently work toward their goals. In some cases, their goals may seem too lofty to accomplish, or else they aren’t sure how to make a plan for them.

If you don’t come up with concrete steps to take toward your goals, they’ll remain dreams. There’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer, but being able to turn your dreams into goals you can realize will help you lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

Luckily, you can realize almost any dream when you harness the right goal-setting methods.

In this article, I’ll show you how to achieve goals and get closer you success.

1. Break your dreams down into specific and measurable steps

We couldn’t talk about goal-setting without mentioning SMART goals.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related.

Specific and measurable steps are so important because if we don’t know what our target it, how can we ever hit it?

Take all those beautiful dreams you have for yourself and make them into things you can actually do. If you want to be an entrepreneur, for example, a step toward realizing your dream might be researching what you’ll need to start your business.

Find out more tips about utilizing SMART goals here:

How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

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2. Have at least one clearly defined goal for every interest and role in your life

It’s so easy to become complacent or stagnate. We often think that our careers are the only places where we need to set goals, but we aren’t only what we do.

To make the most of your life, take the approach that you’re always learning and growing in everything you do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well after all.

Set goals whether you’re sponsoring an activity for your child, taking up guitar lessons or trying to prove your worth at work.

You’ll notice that this approach forces you to constantly develop new skills. It can also be fulfilling to put more focus and value into all areas of your life— not just the ones related to our careers.

3. Align your goals with your life’s mission, purpose and passion

Take the opportunity to do some soul-searching. What is it that you want to do with this precious life of yours?

Anything that conflicts with your life’s purpose is bound to cause discontent. Staying in a bad relationship, doing a job that goes against your values, or maintaining the status quo just because it’s comfortable are not options for you.

Thinking about your goals in this way can help you eliminate things in your life that don’t serve you. This frees up mental space that you can use to do the things you care about the most.

Many of us struggle to find the time to work on our goals, but this strategy enables you to make more time.

4. Create goals that ignite your spirit and inspire you to take action

If you can’t be fired up about your goals from the start, they might not be good goals for you.

The road to success is often tough. You’re going to have times when you might feel tired or discouraged.

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You need to feel inspired enough that you’ll be able to overcome obstacles as you encounter them.

If what you’re doing motivates you to be the greatest version of yourself, you’ll be much more resilient.

5. Write down all your goals in specific, measurable detail

This is your road map for what success will look like. The more you define what you want the finished product to be, the greater the chance that you’ll reach that vision.

When you write down your goals, you’re creating a document that you can revisit to make sure you’re on track.

When you’re in the middle of trying to achieve a big goal, it can be hard to see what’s working for you. The things you write in this step will help you stay on-message as you take your goals out of your mind and into the real world.

Don’t just write down your goals and stash them away in a folder somewhere. Take the extra step to put them somewhere where you’ll see them.[1]

If you have too many goals to post on your desk, write a summary or choose one or two steps to work on for the day. Just seeing them will keep them in the front of your mind.

6. Commit to hitting each of your targets without exception

You wouldn’t have created the target if you didn’t think it was necessary. Hold yourself accountable for taking the steps to succeed.

You can always adapt your strategy or break your targets into smaller steps if you find that they aren’t attainable as you originally wrote them.

Hitting even the smallest target is cause for a celebration. It’s a step in the positive direction. Your success will make you crave more success.

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We often make excuses when we get tired or overwhelmed. Take away the option to make excuses. You will only be satisfied with the best effort from yourself.

7. Share your goals with others to motivate each other

There’s something so powerful about people sharing their goals and dreams with one another. Doing so gives voice to some part of us that could remain hidden (and therefore never be accomplished).

When other people know about your goals, they can cheer you on and hold you accountable. When people share their vision with you, you can do the same for them.

This strategy is particularly beneficial when you’re trying to develop healthy habits. Post about your workout on social media, or do a healthy eating challenge with your best friend. You’ll be less likely to slack when temptation arises, and you’ll probably encourage someone else to reach for their goals too.

8. Set a series of daily, weekly and long-term goals, complete with starting times and deadlines

Many goals never reach realization simply because the goal-setter doesn’t check their progress. People tend to forget what they set out to do, or their goal gets crowded out by other obligations.

Forcing yourself to revisit your goals at regular intervals breaks them into smaller steps and it reminds you to think about them.

Giving yourself regular deadlines for smaller tasks related to your goals also helps you reflect on your strategy. You’ll figure out what works for you, whether your timeline is realistic, and whether or not you need additional help to stay on track.

In addition, celebrating small wins helps you stay motivated. Here’s how:

How To Celebrate Small Wins To Achieve Big Goals

9. Take 10 minutes every day to imagine how great it will feel to achieve your goals

Visualization is such a powerful tool. Some of the most successful athletes, celebrities and business people take time each day to think about how success looks and feels for them.[2] Imagining that feeling of satisfaction can be a great motivator.

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When you do meet your goals, take some time to be grateful. Thank yourself for showing up and doing the work. Be grateful when the stars align properly to help you advance to the next step.

It’s not just getting to the destination of your goals that matters. How you take the journey is important too.

10. Take an action step toward reaching your goals every day

Your goals can easily get buried in the hustle and the bustle. Even the smallest step in the right direction is still moving you forward.

Keep chipping away at the work every day and before long, you’ll start to see those dreams come to life.

Maybe you didn’t start your business today but you designed the logo that’s going to go on your website and business cards. Doing that task well is going to help you so much in the long run.

Concrete actions day by day draw your dreams out of obscurity and into the realm of possibility.

Change begins today

Dreams can inspire and overwhelm us. By turning our dreams into goals that we can work toward, we increase our chances of success. Things that once seemed impossible are suddenly within reach.

It’s time to start turning your dreams into goals and your goals into realities.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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