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Understanding your business tax obligations is crucial to running a successful and compliant business, but if you're still learning, don't worry—we're here to help make tax season a little easier. In this guide, we cover all the basics of small business taxes, including:

  • How to register your business
  • Deductions and credits you may be eligible for
  • How to file your tax forms and returns
  • The importance of accurate record-keeping
  • When it might be helpful to seek professional assistance
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How to Register Your Business for Taxes

To start, you'll need to determine the type of business structure you have. This will affect which taxes you need to pay and how you file. Some common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership 
  • Corporation
  • Limited liability company (LLC)

Once you've figured out your business structure, you'll need to get any necessary licenses and permits. This will vary based on your location and type of business.

Finally, you'll need to register for any applicable federal and state taxes. This typically includes registering for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and paying business taxes such as income tax, self-employment tax and sales tax. It may sound intimidating at first, but it's not too difficult. Just take it one step at a time and you'll have your business registered for taxes in no time.

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Business Structures and Their Tax Implications

Let's dive into the different business structures we mentioned above and what you can expect in terms of their tax implications. Each structure will have its own unique set of tax burdens, so it's important to understand their differences so you can build the correct tax framework for your business:

  • Sole proprietorship taxes: This is the simplest business structure and is suitable for many small businesses. You'll report all business income and expenses on your personal tax return, meaning you'll pay self-employment tax on your net income.
  • Partnership taxes: Business income and expenses are reported on the personal tax returns of each business partner, but each partner is only responsible for paying self-employment tax on their share of the business's net income.
  • Corporation taxes: A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners, so it's treated as a separate entity for tax purposes. The corporation pays taxes on its profits, and the owners (also known as shareholders) pay taxes on any salary or dividends they receive. This is known as double taxation, as the same income is being taxed at both the corporate and individual levels.
  • Limited liability company taxes: An LLC combines elements of both a corporation and a sole proprietorship or partnership. As an LLC owner or member, you have limited personal liability for the debts and actions of the business. You can have the LLC taxed as a corporation or as a sole proprietorship/partnership, so the LLC can either pay taxes on its profits and members pay taxes on their share of the profits, or profits and losses can be passed through to the members and taxed at the individual level.

Quick Tip

Consider hiring a registered agent service when forming an LLC. They will handle the receipt of legal documents, such as service of process, on behalf of the LLC and can provide a professional address to maintain privacy.

Tax Deductions for Small Business

Deductions can help lower your tax burden and save you money. Here are some common tax deductions for small businesses:

  • Business expenses: You can deduct any ordinary and necessary business expenses, such as supplies, rent, and employee salaries.
  • Home office deduction: If you use part of your home for business purposes, you may be able to claim a deduction for the related expenses.
  • Vehicle expenses: If you use your car for business purposes, you can claim a deduction for the related expenses, such as gas and maintenance.
  • Depreciation: You can claim a deduction for the decline in value of business assets, such as equipment and furniture.

To maximize your deductions, keep accurate records and receipts for all of your business expenses. You should also consult with a tax professional to ensure you're taking advantage of all the deductions that you're eligible for.

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Tax Credits for Small Businesses

Tax credits are a type of tax benefit that allows you to reduce the amount of tax you owe, dollar-for-dollar. In other words, if you're eligible for a $1,000 tax credit and owe $3,000 in taxes, your tax bill will be reduced to $2,000. Tax credits are generally more valuable than deductions because they directly reduce your tax liability, rather than just reducing the amount of income that's subject to tax.

Some examples of tax credits available to small businesses include:

  • Small business health care tax credit: This credit is available to small employers who offer health insurance to their employees.
  • Energy efficient commercial buildings deduction: This deduction allows businesses to claim a deduction for the cost of energy-efficient commercial building property, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
  • Research and development tax credit: If your business engages in research and development activities, you may be eligible for this credit, which can help offset the costs of these activities.

Tax credits have specific eligibility requirements and may be subject to limits. It's a good idea to consult with a tax professional to determine which credits you may be eligible for and how to claim them.

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Tax Forms for Small Businesses

The way you structure your business correlates to which forms you'll fill out come tax season. It's likely you will have multiple tax forms to file, however, here are some common tax forms you'll face as a small business owner:

  • Form 1040 and Schedule C: If you're a sole proprietor or a single-member LLC, you'll need to report your business income and expenses on Form 1040 and Schedule C.
  • Form 1065: If you're a partnership or multimember LLC, you'll need to file Form 1065 to report your business income and expenses.
  • Form 1120: Corporations use Form 1120 to report their business income and expenses.
  • Form 941: If you have employees, you'll need to use Form 941 to report your employment taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Form 940: Form 940 is used to report federal unemployment tax.
  • Form 1099-MISC: If you pay an independent contractor more than $600 in a year, you'll need to report the payment on Form 1099-MISC.

Keep in mind that the forms listed are just a few examples and that your filing requirements will vary based on your unique business. As always, it's advisable to talk with a tax professional to ensure you're checking off all the correct boxes. 

Keep Organized Records

Accurate record-keeping is essential for small businesses when it comes to completing tax forms and filing returns. Good record-keeping can also help you make informed business decisions, monitor your progress and track your finances. Here are some tips for staying on top of your business income and expenses:

  • Keep all of your receipts and documentation organized: This includes receipts for business purchases, invoices and bank statements.
  • Use accounting software: Many affordable and user-friendly accounting software options can help you track your income and expenses and generate reports.
  • Use separate bank accounts for your business: This will make it easier to track your business income and expenses and prepare your tax returns.
  • Set up a filing system: Whether it's a physical filing cabinet or an electronic system, it's important to have a way to easily access and organize your financial documents.
  • Monitor your cash flow: Keep an eye on your business's financial health by regularly reviewing your income and expenses. This can help you identify any potential issues and make adjustments as needed.
  • Record transactions promptly: Don't wait until the end of the month or quarter to record your transactions. The sooner you record them, the easier it will be to keep track of your finances.

As far as documentation goes for tax time, keep these types of records in mind throughout the year to better prepare for filing:

  • Receipts for business purchases: This includes receipts for supplies, equipment and other business expenses.
  • Invoices: Keep track of invoices for any goods or services you sell.
  • Bank statements: Make sure to keep copies of your business bank statements for the year.
  • Records of employee wages and taxes: This includes pay stubs, tax forms and any other documentation related to your employees.
    Sales tax records: If you collect sales tax from your customers, keep accurate records of the amount collected.
    Documentation of business assets: This includes equipment, furniture and vehicles.
  • Mileage log: If you use your car for business, log your mileage. You can claim a deduction for the business-related mileage.

Seek Professional Help

Taxes are an extremely fickle and time-consuming task. That is why people dedicate years of learning and whole careers to becoming subject matter experts in the field. Here are a few reasons you may want to hire one of these professionals to take control of your small business taxes:

  1. You're new to running a small business and aren't familiar with the tax requirements.
  2. You don't have the time or expertise to handle your own taxes.
  3. Your business is growing and you need more complex tax advice.
  4. You're concerned about making mistakes on your tax forms.

The most common way to find a reputable tax professional is to ask for referrals from other small business owners or to find notable tax advisors through professional organizations such as The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. When interviewing potential tax professionals, ask about their experience and qualifications, and be sure to get a written quote for their services.

If working with a tax advisor is new to you, here are a few tips to keep in mind to help the relationship flourish: 

  • Be prepared: To save time and money, have all of your documentation and records organized before meeting with your tax professional
    Be honest: Being open and honest about your business income and expenses will help your tax professional give you the best advice and ensure that your tax returns are accurate.
  • Ask questions: If you have any questions or concerns about your taxes, don't be afraid to ask your tax professional. They're there to help you.
    Follow their advice: Trust your tax professional's expertise and follow their advice. This will help you avoid any potential problems with the IRS.

Maximize Your Tax Savings as a Small Business Owner

It is crucial for small business owners to remain knowledgeable about their tax obligations to avoid issues with the IRS. Accurate record-keeping is necessary for completing tax forms and filing returns, and there are numerous deductions and credits available that can help reduce your tax burden. If you're new to running a small business or don't have the time or expertise to handle your own taxes, it may be helpful to hire a tax professional.

A tax professional can ensure accuracy and help you take advantage of any applicable deductions or credits. To find a reputable tax professional, you can seek referrals, consult with professional organizations, or check with your local Chamber of Commerce. If you have any questions or concerns about your business taxes, do not hesitate to reach out to a tax professional for assistance.

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FAQs

  • All businesses that produce a profitable income are subject to paying federal taxes.

  • Business tax is the tax applied to businesses or business income. The specific tax rates can vary depending on the location and the type of business.

  • Sales tax is a tax applied to the sale of products or services. It is typically collected by the seller whenever you complete a purchase and is based on a percentage of the sale price. The amount varies depending on location and product type.

  • Yes, if they are deemed as "ordinary and necessary" for the purpose of operating your business you can deduct them. You'll just need to provide documentation of the expense and the amount spent.

  • Yes, deductions may have limitations or phase-outs based on your income or other factors. The home office deduction, for example, has rules for calculating the amount you can claim, and other deductions may have dollar limits or percentage limitations.

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Ashlyn Brooks

Ashlyn Brooks is a financial writer and former civil engineer. She's on a mission to show others how to save and spend smarter through purposeful money habits. Her work has been featured on Investor.com, HerMoney.com, MoneyGeek and QuickBooks