The best way to ensure that you don’t get a bigger bill than necessary come income tax time is to double check you are getting every deduction possible. There are multiple small business tax deductions available to sole-proprietorships and other small business organizations, such as LLCs.
Different Tax Deductions You Can Apply to Your Business
Keep in mind that while the list below contains some common deductions that may apply to your business, there may be some on this list that don’t work for your specific circumstances. Always check with your accountant before claiming a deduction on your taxes.
1. Home Office
This is one of the most common deductions that small business owners are able to use. In order for you to qualify for the home office deduction, your space needs to pass the needed requirements. You must use the area exclusively for your business. Working from your bed won’t get you the deduction. You should also regularly conduct most of your business from this location.
Beginning in 2013, the IRS introduced a simplified option for you to claim your home office deduction. This allows for you to claim up to 300 square feet at a rate of $5 per square foot. This didn’t change who can claim the deduction. But, it just made it easier to claim the deductions. You are also able to claim your deduction using the standard method. However, this does have a few differences:
- It allows you to claim a percentage of the home used instead of using a 300-square foot cap.
- Depreciation deduction for a portion of the home used is allowed as well as recapture of depreciation upon the sale of the home.
- Actual expenses are used to determine deduction instead of the standard $5/square foot.
Which option you choose when claiming will depend upon your entire tax situation as a whole. Spend some time going over your tax situation in its entirety to figure out what exactly will work better for you.
2. Car Business Use
Just like your home office, using your car for business purposes may allow for you to get a nice deduction on your taxes. This deduction is a bit harder to keep track of if you use your vehicle for both personal and business use.
If you are purchasing a vehicle that will be used at least 50% of the time for business during the year, you are able to deduct this from your taxes. SUVs can yield a deduction of up to $25,000. Smaller passenger vehicles can get you a deduction of up to $11,060.
If you plan on deducting your business mileage, keep in mind that you need to have proper and thorough documentation of exactly how your mileage relates to your business. You also need to keep this documentation on hand for up to seven years after you take the deduction. You are able to deduct either the actual cost of the mileage or take the standard deduction.
Legally, you are able to take the standard deduction even if the actual cost of your mileage is less. However, if you do take the standard deduction, you will not be able to deduct the operating costs of the vehicle. These costs include gasoline, maintenance, or insurance.
3. Advertising and Promotional Materials
Advertising can be one of the biggest, but also the most necessary, expense a small business owner can incur. All of your advertising and promotional materials can be deducted at 100%. Therefore, this expense can also quickly become your biggest deduction as well.
These deductions include not only your paid online and offline advertising, such as billboards or Google ads. It also includes business cards and pamphlets you hand out at networking events. If you paid for SEO services or pay a monthly fee for email marketing software, you are able to deduct those expenses as well.
One advertising expense that is a bit tricky to deduct is vehicle advertising. It’s very common for local small business owners to have their vehicle decorated with their company name, logo, and contact information. The actual cost of adding the promotional materials to your vehicle is deductible. However, the cost of driving around so people can see your vehicle is not deductible.
There are also advertising versus selling costs that need to be kept in mind. If the sole purpose of your business website is advertising, then the monthly maintenance costs and fees are deductible. However, if you also take payments on your website and sell your products there, this is considered a selling fee and no longer deductible under advertising purposes. This also applies to signage. If you post a temporary sign to get attention for your business, you can deduct it. Permanent signs, such as those lasting a year or more, are not deductible.
4. Child and Dependent Care
If you have anyone who is dependent upon you for care, such as your children or a spouse/family member incapable of self-care, you can deduct the expenses you incur while paying for care for them during your working hours.
If you own your business and have employees, offering to pay for your employees’ childcare expenses can also provide you with a fairly lucrative deduction on your taxes. This can add up to $150,000 a year by claiming 10-25% of this expense.
It’s always a good idea to further your knowledge and skills in your chosen area of expertise. By attending workshops, taking classes, and purchasing books that are directly tied to furthering the skills you need to properly run your business, you can accrue quite a deduction.
The IRS will definitely take a look at these expenses and determine if they qualify for the deduction. Yet, every single education-related expense that you incur while furthering your education will be deducted at 100%. Any education-related expenses not directly related to your business or that will not help with a new career will not qualify.
6. Retirement Contributions
While you may love what you do, eventually, you will want to retire. Contributing to your retirement fund will give you a great nest egg for the future. It will also give you a great deduction on your income now. You will need to work closely with your tax advisor or accountant to make sure that you set up a qualified plan. Only certain plans qualify, and each plan qualifies only up to a certain amount.
Much like your vehicle expenses, traveling for the sole purpose of work is also deductible. If you are going to be away from your home for longer than one business day, you are able to deduct all expenses accrued during that time as long as you thoroughly document who you are meeting, the purpose of travel, and days of return/departure. Some of the included deductible expenses are:
- Travel expenses, such as plane or train tickets
- Meals, including any tips for service
- Shipping of any baggage and materials necessary for the business trip
Like vehicle expenses, keep very detailed records of your business travel to submit with your taxes. Hold on to those records for a few years after.
8. Legal and Professional Fees
Deductions also include paying for any sort of professional to work with you. These professionals include accountants, business specialists, and attorneys.
Every business owner needs to pay an attorney even if it is just to help get all of their business paperwork in order or draw up partnership papers. These business-related fees deductible. You can also deduct fees for legal matters like creating your will as long as you only deduct the portion that relates to your business inside of the will.
An accountant or another tax professional is crucial to any small business owner. Doing your taxes incorrectly can not only cost you some hard-earned deductions now, but it can also cost you thousands in audit expenses later by not filing everything properly.
Keep in mind that if you pay any of these professionals more than $600 during the year for their fees, you may need to file a 1099-MISC. This will definitely be something you need to consult a professional because it can be very complicated determining who needs to file the 1099-MISC and for what expenses.
Don’t Pay More Than You Need To
While owning your business can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have, it can also be quite costly, especially when it comes to income tax time. Knowing what you can — and can’t — deduct from your taxes ensures you don’t pay more than you absolutely need.
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