Miscellaneous Tax Planning Ideas for Business Owners

Planning for your disability or death can result in lower taxes for business owners. Gift, estate and income taxes can be properly managed with a succession plan. Costs for life insurance and professional fees may be lower under a plan. This strategy can also minimize squabbling among family members and key business managers. 

Income splitting is one type of planning tool – simply move income to a child or other family member who will pay at a lower tax rate. The person must perform reasonable work and their compensation may not be outrageous. Hiring parents requires that you review their Social Security benefits and set their pay accordingly. A dependent child is limited in what you can pay them, before paying income tax, and, if the child is over 18, you may have to cover payroll tax and workers’ compensation. 

Poor record keeping often causes businesses to fail. The tax code requires that you keep “records appropriate to your trade or business.” While the code does not specify a particular format, the records must be accurate. Proper records allow you to prepare tax returns more quickly, and may alert you to problems earlier. The balance in your checkbook plus the money you draw out of the business rarely is your taxable income. 

The tax code allow you to deduct the costs of maintaining a home office. Generally, you must not have another business location. You can write off a portion of your utilities, home insurance, pest control, and certain repairs. Depreciation must be weighed against the tax consequences of selling your home. but, keep in mind that the tax code says that depreciation is “allowed or allowable.” If you use your home for business, you still have to consider depreciation in computing a gain on sale of business property whether or not you took the depreciation deduction. 

Clean out old equipment, office furniture and “dead” inventory and donate them to charity. Keep careful records of the items and value donated. Charitable contributions are allowed to any business entity. 

Vehicle expense is usually a high deduction item on a business tax return. You have an option of taking actual expenses or mileage, and the difference in calculating the deduction can be considerable. Do not forget to include spouse and children’s vehicle information when used for the business. Keep careful records of your business mileage and actual costs. Using two or more vehicles requires that you keep separate records. 

Penalties and interest for late payment of business taxes are not deductible. A portion of employment tax is deductible while sales and use tax offers no deduction, if you have not included it in gross income. Paying taxes on time will prevent you from losing a deduction and possibly your business. 

Setting up a retirement plan is a key tax decision. Many different plans allow you great flexibility in the amount you place in the plan. A sideline or moonlighting business can offer the opportunity to make use of retirement programs. Social Security is one of the easiest taxes to control and should be part of the plan selection process. 

Make sure you are operating a business and not a hobby. Section 183 of the Internal Revenue Code says your business should make a profit for at least three out of five years. However, if you do NOT make a profit three years out of five, you are not automatically deemed to be in a hobby. A few exceptions exist in the code, including operating in a business-like manner, keeping business-like books and records, and meeting regularly with a business consultant, including your accountant, for advice. Operating a sideline business may require careful planning to provide those three profitable years. This can be done by deferring some deductible expenses and speeding up some income items. 

Health insurance for a self-employed taxpayer is fully deductible. This often-overlooked tax break allows you to take 100 percent as an adjustment to income. If your spouse works with you in your sole proprietorship, you may be able to deduct your health insurance, as well as other medical expenses, on your Schedule C, through an employee health reimbursement plan. Careful planning is required for this to work correctly.

You should consult a tax professional when applying any of these tax planning suggestions.