As a small business owner, tax liability is the money you owe the government when your business generates income. With changing laws and gray areas regarding deductions, exemptions, and credits, it’s no wonder small business owners rank taxes at the top of the list of the most stress-inducing aspect of business ownership. To reduce that stress, taxes shouldn’t be something to focus on only at year’s end. Use these tips on reducing your business tax year-round and see your taxes and stress level decrease!
1. Business structure
Your company’s business structure is how it is organized – it answers questions like who is in charge, how are profits distributed, and who is responsible for business debt. The most common business structures are:
- Sole proprietorships have one owner who takes all profits as personal income. The owner is personally liable for any business debts.
- Partnerships are structured like sole proprietorships but can have an unlimited number of owners.
- C corporations have unlimited shareholders who each own part of the company. Profits are distributed as dividends between them. Owners are not personally liable for business debts.
- S corporations are structured like C corporations, but the number of shareholders is capped at 100.
In addition to affecting how a business operates, business structure impacts how much a company pays in taxes. The U.S. tax code is complex and includes four main tax categories:
- Income tax – paid on profits
- Employment tax – employee Social Security and Medicare contributions
- Self-employment tax – Social Security and Medicare contributions for self-employed individuals
- Excise tax – special taxes for specific goods and services like tobacco, alcohol, etc.
IA sole proprietorship or partnership is a good idea for businesses wanting tax simplicity. For those with less than 100 owners, an S corporation might be the right fit and best tax option. Again, business structure and tax laws are complex and are best determined by a qualified, experienced accountant.
2. Net Earnings
Net earnings (i.e., net income or profit) is the gross business income minus business expenses. Regardless of the business, it begins with gross income (the income received directly by an individual, before any withholding, deductions, or taxes), and allowable expenses are deducted to arrive at net income. How this figure is calculated is dependent upon business structure.
Net earnings are used to calculate business income taxes. Again, the calculation process differs slightly for different business structures. It is best to seek a professional to help with net earnings calculations for the proper calculation and maximum legal deductions.
3. Employ a Family Member
One of the best ways for small business owners to reduce taxes is hiring a family member. The (IRS allows a variety of options for tax sheltering. For example, suppose you hire your child, as a small business owner. In that case, you will pay a lower marginal rate or eliminate the tax on the income paid to your child. Sole proprietorships are not required to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on a child’s wages. They can also avoid Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax. Consult a trusted accounting professional for details about the benefits of hiring your children or even your spouse.
4. Retirement contributions
Employee retirement plans benefit employees, but they can also be good for your small business. Employer contributions to an employee retirement plan are tax-deductible. They can also carry an employer tax credit for setting up an employee retirement plan. Again, this is a task an accountant can handle for you. They can guide you on retirement plan choices based on your business’s situation, employees, and other factors.
As a small business owner, you can deduct contributions to a tax-qualified retirement account from your income taxes (except for Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s). Sole proprietors, members of a partnership, or LLC members can deduct from their personal income contributions to their retirement account.
As with any tax situation, consulting your trusted accounting professional is always best. They are up to date on the latest tax laws, information, and allowable deductions. By being aware of ways your small business can reduce taxes, you can bring these topics up with your accountant, discuss the best options for you, and be prepared long before tax time rolls around.
Call our office at 414-325-2040 to discuss your business needs with an experienced Milwaukee CPA firm.