by Alvin Wu, CPA
Tax Manager at Atchley & Associates, LLP
Top 5 Tips for Small Business Owners
1. Decide on entity structure
When a business outgrows a schedule C, generally, it’s beneficial for small business owners to elect to be a S corporation or a partnership (LLP, LP, LLC etc.) depending on the number of business owners in the entity. Partnerships normally require at least two partners while S corporations can have one. One of the main advantages of these two structures are that there is a single level of taxation on the individual return and no tax on the business return. A corporation on the other hand taxes business owners first on the corporation’s return (21% starting in 2018) and then again on the individual owner’s return when they receive any dividends from the corporation.
2. Keep personal finances separate
It is crucial to have a business checking account to keep personal funds separate from the business. This makes things easier when creating any cash reconciliations schedules or financial statements, which will inevitably be needed as the business grows. Future in house or third-party accountants will also have an easier time utilizing the business’s financial records if there are no comingled personal funds, which in turn will save the business owner on fees.
3. Keep a record of any travel expenses and meals
Unfortunately, entertainment expenses for clients was eliminated in the Jobs Act of 2017, however, meals where business is conducted is still 50% deductible. In addition, travel for business remains 100% deductible. Keeping an accurate record of these expenses can reduce any tax liability.
4. Take advantage of the de minimis safe harbor
Furniture and equipment with useful life greater than 1 year is required to be capitalized, which forces businesses to only recognize a fraction of the total cost as expense each year for the item’s useful tax life. Tax years starting January 1st, 2016 and after, the IRS allows businesses and individuals to elect to fully expense items with a cost of less than $2,500.
5. Remember to take office in home deductions
Small business owners often work out of their home office. The IRS allows business owners to either take the expenses on schedule A, or on the business’s return, assuming the business is no longer on a schedule C. Keep accurate expense records and consult a tax advisor to optimize the tax benefits of reporting on the individual return vs the business return.