Business

A Dozen Deductions For Your Small Business

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Bankrate

small business tax deductions

A small business offers plenty of opportunities for tax deductions. Just be sure to follow IRS rules.

Here are 12 that even savvy small-business owners and entrepreneurs sometimes forget.

the deductible dozen

1. Home office

To claim your home office on your taxes, the IRS says it must be a space devoted to your business and absolutely nothing else.

The deduction isn’t limited to a full room. Your home office can be part of a room. Measure your work area and divide by the square footage of your home.

That percentage is the fraction of your home-related business expenses — rent, mortgage, insurance, electricity, etc. — that you can claim.

There’s also a simpler way to claim a home office deduction. Consider both the regular and simplified methods of writing off your home office.

“I don’t agree that chances of getting audited are greater with a home office deduction,” says Zobel, a San Francisco Bay-area tax expert who specializes in serving the self-employed. The key is that you use the term “home office” the same way the IRS does. The tax agency says it must be a space devoted to your business and absolutely nothing else. Deducting the den that houses the family computer and serves as a guest bedroom won’t fly with Uncle Sam.

“If you only have one computer and you have a child over 4, the IRS is going to be pretty certain that the child is using the computer,” says Zobel. “And the burden of proof is on you.”

The deduction, however, isn’t limited to a full room. Your home office can be part of a room. Just how much of the space is deductible? Measure your work area and divide by the square footage of your home. That percentage is the fraction of your home-related business expenses — rent, mortgage, insurance, electricity, etc. — that you can claim.

There’s also a newer way to claim a home office deduction. Read “Use newer, simplified home office deduction” for details.

2. Office supplies

Even if you don’t take the home office deduction, you can deduct the business supplies you buy. Hang on to those receipts, because these expenditures will offset your taxable business income.

3. Furniture

Office-furniture acquisitions provide two choices:

  1. Deduct 100 percent of the cost in the year of the purchase.
  2. Deduct a portion of the expense over seven years, also known as depreciation.

To take the whole cost in one tax year, use the Section 179 deduction. There deduction cap for 2016 taxes is $500,000, but may be adjusted for inflation in future years.

If you choose instead to depreciate the desks and filing cabinets, you can’t simply split the cost into equal portions over the depreciation period. Instead, you must use an IRS chart to make separate calculations each year.

Which is better for you? Anticipate the times that your business will need these deductions the most. Both options are reported on IRS Form 4562.

4. Other equipment

Items such as computers, copiers, fax machines and scanners are tax-deductible. As with furniture, you can take 100 percent upfront or depreciate (this time over five years).

Does your business need a new copier? Put it on a business credit card.

5. Software and subscriptions

Section 179 provides another tax break. New computer software a business buys can be fully expensed in the year purchased.

For business and industry-related magazine subscriptions you can deduct the total costs as a full deduction in the year spent.

6. Mileage

If you drive for business, the IRS wants to give you some of your money back. You’ll need documentation, so keep a notebook in your vehicle to record the date, mileage, tolls, parking costs and the purpose of your trip.

At the end of the year, you have two choices:

  1. Total the mileage and add in the tolls and parking to calculate your deduction. Once you have your mileage total, multiply it by 54 cents for your 2016 deduction. For 2017 business tax purposes, the rate drops to 53.5 cents a mile.
  2. Measure your business usage against your personal driving and deduct that portion of your auto-related expenses. Remember to include gas, repairs and insurance.

If you are leasing, include those payments.

If you are buying the car, factor in the interest on your loan and depreciation on your vehicle.

If your company’s office is at your house, you can deduct the entire business-related mileage, from the minute you pull out of the driveway until you return home.

If your business is not home-based, your mileage meter starts at your first business-related destination and ends at your last. You can’t include the drive to and from home. In this case, try to schedule several business appointments on the same day to allow you to take the mileage between stops as a tax write-off.

7. Travel, meals, entertainment and gifts

Good news, small-business travelers. You might as well stay in a nice hotel, because the entire cost is tax-deductible. Likewise, the cost of travel — air, rail or auto — is 100 percent deductible, as are costs associated with life on the road (dry cleaning, rental cars and tipping the bellboy).

The only exception is dining out. You can deduct only 50 percent of your meals while traveling. So stay at the Ritz and eat at Wendy’s.

Once you get home, your on-the-job meals aren’t deductible — unless you bring along a client to talk business. In this case, you might consider splurging on a fancier meal because then you can write off half such work-related dining costs.

The 50 percent deduction limit applies to most other client entertainment expenses, too. But a direct gift to a client or employee is 100 percent deductible, up to $25 per person per year.

8. Insurance premiums

Self-employed and paying your own health insurance premiums? These costs are 100 percent deductible.

This break primarily benefits proprietorships, but there are limits. The deduction can’t be more than your business’ net profit. And it’s not allowed if you were eligible for other health care coverage, including that offered by your employed spouse’s medical plan.

Did your spouse work for you last year? You can get the full medical premiums deduction on your return. As an employee, your spouse’s premiums are 100 percent deductible; if you and the children were on his or her policy as dependents, so are those costs.

Two caveats:

  1. Your spouse’s employment must be real, not in name only, and you must offer coverage equally to any other employees.
  2. Failure to meet these requirements could result in a lawsuit, an audit or both.

You also can include some of the premiums you pay for long-term care insurance for yourself, your spouse or dependents.

9. Retirement contributions

Are you self-employed and saving for your own retirement with a SEP IRA or Keogh? Don’t forget to deduct your contribution on your personal income tax return.

10. Social Security

The bad news: If you’re self-employed or starting a small business, you have to pay double the Social Security contributions you would as an employee. That’s because federal law requires the employer pay half and the employee pay half. Self-employed workers are both, meaning the total will equal 15.3 percent of your net profits.

The good news: You can deduct half of the contribution on your 1040.

11. Telephone charges

You can deduct the cost of the business calls you make for business from home. When your bill comes in, circle the business-related calls, total them up and keep a copy. At the end of the year, tally your 12 bills and deduct 100 percent.

Regular fees and charges on your phone line don’t count toward your deduction. But if you have a second line installed and use it only for business, all of these charges are deductible.

If you use your cellphone for your business, you can claim those calls as a tax deduction. If 30 percent of your time on the phone is spent on business, you could deduct 30 percent of your phone bill.

12. Child labor

If you hire your children as employees at your business, you may be able to deduct their salaries from your business income if they meet certain requirements.

Also, there is no Social Security tax when you hire your child who is 17 or younger and you can deduct the salary as a business expense.

This break is available, however, only if you operate as a sole proprietor or as a partnership in which you and your spouse are the only partners. If your business runs as a corporation, then it, not you, is considered the employer and the corporation is not relieved of the tax liabilities.

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

 

5 Reasons to Enlist the Help of a Bookkeeping Service For Harrison, NY Businesses

Bookkeeping Service For Harrison, NY Businesses

Many business owners in Harrison, NY handle their own bookkeeping. Common reasons include saving money and reducing the likelihood of the exposure of confidential information. However, having the owner keep his or her book is often inefficient and counterproductive. Most business owners are relieved when they enlist outside assistance. Here’s a look at why outsourcing your bookkeeping may be important, especially with a new year having just begun.

1. Start Tidy in the New Year

Having up-to-date and complete books is critical at any time, but the advent of a new year provides an appropriate time to make a fresh and clean beginning. With the help of a qualified accounting firm, Harrison business owners, entrepreneurs and professional service providers can rest assured that:

  • Bank transactions are complete and accounts are reconciled.

  • Expenses are categorized properly.

  • Profit and loss statements are accurate.

  • All possible tax deductions have been identified.

  • Your expectations are realistic, and you have an accurate picture of your business’s financial health.

2. Focus on Running Your Business

You should focus on what you are good at and passionate about. Chances are that’s actually running your business: innovating, meeting with clients, selecting products and so on. Spending even just a few hours a month on bookkeeping takes time away from what you do best.

3. Simplify a Complicated Process

What goes into your bookkeeping process? For instance, do you use software that takes hours to learn and that you’re not fully expert with? Do you use manual data entry when automated processes could save you time? Also, do you know about all of the tax law changes so that you can pay the least possible taxes under the current laws?

An accounting firm can simplify a complicated process in so many ways, from being current on tax law to making sure your retirement account contributions are maximized.

4. Gain an Outside Perspective

Most importantly, a bookkeeper is an outside eye on your business. Your bookkeeper is especially valuable in this aspect because, while they’re on your team, they’re also on the outside, which lends an invaluable outsider perspective. A qualified firm is ethical and sensitive to any confidentiality issues.

If you are seeking bookkeeping or accounting help in the Harrison, NY, area (or anywhere in the New York Metropolitan area for that matter), contact Herman & Company CPA’s, PC today for a free, no obligation consultation.

Prepare for Your 2017 Contract Negotiations

golf pro advisor

It’s that time of year again – time to negotiate your contract for next year.

You want to enter into contract discussions armed with the following:

  • Financial Info - Accurate information about your earnings.
  • Performance Metrics – Stats on the golf program (number of rounds, lessons, etc.).
  • Comparables - Head pro compensation at comparable clubs in your area.
  • Goal - A strategy for what you want to achieve.

In this newsletter, I will focus on the financials.

Why Your Financials Matter
Your club’s management (Golf committee, general manager, president, treasurer) should have a clear picture of your total compensation. That includes whatever the club pays you plus income generated through your outside entity (LLC, S-Corp, etc.).

That information is essential to understanding whether you are fairly compensated both for your performance and in comparison to your peers.
Your club management may not know how much money you really make. And they may think you’re doing just fine.

Your job is to educate them with facts.  But your financials must be credible.

I can’t emphasize this enough. If your club management doesn’t believe the numbers, you will be at a severe disadvantage.

Preparing Your Financials
Your financial statement should:

  • Be complete and accurate
  • Cover multiple years
  • Clearly illustrate trends
  • Tie to your tax returns
  • Provide a sufficient but not overwhelming amount of detail

If you use bookkeeping software, such as QuickBooks, you probably already have the information you need. The challenge is to put the information into a format that your club management can understand and digest.
Work with your accountant to ensure that your financials are accurate and complete. Prepare a spreadsheet that covers four to five years (if you have that much history) and all the appropriate income and expense categories.

I would recommend a one-page spreadsheet with an appropriate amount of detail (but not an eye chart with dozens of lines).

Make it easy to read. Color code the statement to highlight totals and trends.

Be sure that you can reconcile the total taxable income in each year to each year’s tax return.

Client Illustration 
I recently worked with a golf pro preparing his financials for discussions with the golf committee. To preserve confidentiality, I will call my client Fred.

The bottom line is that Fred’s pre-tax profit dropped 8% over the four-year period. Below is a chart that illustrates the trend.

Note something interesting here. A comparison of Fred’s income from 2014 to 2015 shows an INCREASE in his pre-tax profit over the year. But the overall trend over the four-year period is DOWN.

That’s a very important distinction. Trends are key as opposed to a snapshot of a short period.

 

The golf committee at Fred’s club was impressed with the completeness and accuracy of his financials. They have not yet finalized Fred’s 2017 compensation.

But because they (a) are pleased with Fred’s performance and (b) recognize that his income has declined, they are open to changing his compensation.

Financial Statement Components
Here is an overview of the components of Fred’s spreadsheet.
There are two sources of revenue: “ABC Golf, Inc” (disguised name of his S-Corporation) and his club salary.
ABC Golf, Inc.

  • Merchandise Gross Profit – Gross profit (Revenue less cost of goods) from the golf shop.
  • Bag/Range/Other – Primarily driving range fees and bag storage fees.
  • Net Payroll – Salary payments to Fred and his assistants less lesson fee reimbursement
  • Other Expenses – Operating expenses for the golf program
  • ABC Golf, Inc. Salary – The salary Fred pays himself out of ABC’s revenue
  • Club Salary – The salary Fred receives from the Club directly

Make Your Case with Facts
Fred got a good reception from his golf committee because he made a strong argument with his financial presentation. It’s hard to dispute the facts.

As former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg used to say “In God we trust. Everyone else brings data.”
If you would like a sample spreadsheet, please email me at paul@hermancpa.com. Also, I am happy to provide any golf pro (at no cost) a 30-minute consultation on preparing the spreadsheet. Please email me to set up an appointment.

Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.