The deadline for taxes has long passed, and those who needed to file an extension surely have done so by now. Many of us have already received our returns, and were a little underwhelmed by what we got back (if anything at all). Don’t get caught at the last minute next year-avoid these common tax mistakes to stay ahead of the curve!
Just because you’re a sole proprietor or are self-employed doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay taxes on a quarterly basis. Of course, the first year, you get a free pass, however, there are certain exceptions based on how much you make. Get into practice of automatically setting aside a percentage of each payment or revenue, then take stock of your P&L statement each quarter. Pay the taxes each quarter to avoid a hefty payment at the end of the year.
Speaking of keeping track, it’s incredibly important to keep track of all of your business expenses, including your miles to properly deduct during tax time. If you don’t already, consider using an accounting program like Quickbooks to let you record and manage expenses. If you don’t have the time, or the wherewithal to do it, hire a bookkeeper who will enter in and reconcile these transactions on a monthly basis.
When tracking your expenses, be sure to determine them accordingly in your Chart of Accounts. What this means is when you have expenses like supplies (printer ink, paper, etc), account for them accordingly. Office Expenses are generally equipment. Why is this important? Because you can write off a portion for each year the appliance is in use or write off the full amount (up to a certain maximum) for the year you purchased. For example, if you bought a new laptop this year, you can write off the full price in your 2014 return. While you’re at it, don’t forget to take the actual home office tax deduction; but do so wisely. There has to be a certain portion of a room, or a dedicated room for your business in order to qualify for writing off a percentage of your home expenses including rent or mortgage payments, utilities and insurance costs.
Speaking of deductions: it could be that part of the nature of your business requires you to give gifts to your clients, which is fine. But remember that you can only deduct $25 per recipient. If you give gifts readily, make certain you keep all of your receipts.
Discuss your legal structure with a tax advisor or a CPA to help you figure out if your structure is still legitimate. For example, you may have started out as a sole proprietor and are paying too much in self-employment taxes. Creating a C or S Corp, or a LLC could help lower your tax bill.
Lastly, and I’ve said this a million times. NEVER, EVER, EVER make business purchases with a personal account! Doing so can lead to a considerable amount of confusion, and lead to legal infractions. Do yourself a favor and open a business account the same day you start your business to get it right from day 1.
Are there any mistakes you’ve made in the past that you’ve learned from?