Taxes are the great bane of most businesses. Alas, tax deductions act as a salve to cool the burning and itching of your bank account.
Overview of the Almighty Tax Deduction for Small Businesses
The tax system in the United States is an undeniable mess. With tens of thousands of pages of laws and regulations, the phrase cruel and unusual comes to mind when it is time to pay your taxes. President Jimmy Carter called the system a disgrace to the human race. Albert Einstein said the tax system was the hardest thing to understand in the world, much harder than physics. The system is such a mess, that some large corporations file one tax form every four minutes! The only way to fight the good fight against taxes is to understand and maximize deductions.
Business taxes can be summarized simply as calculating your total revenue, reducing this amount by as many deductions as you can and then paying tax on the remaining amount. Obviously, this represents a major simplification, but I offer it highlight the importance of deductions. They act as your lifesaver when you are floating in the ocean of tax codes and regulations.
Most people get caught up in the finite issues of tax deductions and miss out on deductions. To this end, it is important to understand the theme for deductions for small businesses. When considering whether an expense is a deduction, you should ask yourself the following:
1. Did it occur as part of my small business?
2. Was it an ordinary expense associated with my business?
3. Was it a necessary expense?
Many people ask for a more specific of an “ordinary” expense. Alas, the tax code is vague, but this typically means an expense that another business in your industry would also claim. Admittedly, it is a vague term, but you will just have to determine how comfortable you are with claiming the deduction.
The second area people get confused with is the “necessary” element of the test. Alas, the IRS has been kind enough to help us out here. A necessary expense is one integral to the development and maintenance of your business. Okay, the IRS hasn’t helped much, but it is a guideline of sorts.
In many situations, small businesses can be fairly aggressive with their deduction claims. If audited, it important that you be able to state why a claimed deduction is an ordinary and necessary expense of your business. While obvious deduction such as business cards can be claimed, these vague definitions give you lots of wiggle room in other areas.
How aggressive should you be in claiming tax deductions? It really depends on your comfort level. The more aggressive you are, the more you should consider getting some professional CPA help to back up your claims.