27 Oct 4 Small Business Habits for the BEST Tax Deductions
Record Keeping Habits That Will Ensure Your Maximum Tax Deduction
As we approach the end of the year, whether it is the end of your fiscal year or not, it is always helpful to refresh your business practices so that you aren’t in lurch come tax time. There are simple steps you can take to ensure that you get your best AND the most compliant tax deduction. If you can ensure BOTH less tax liability and peace of mind that you are cool with the IRS, why not dive in today?
Looking for the bottom line? You have to build a foundation of reliable facts that your Bookkeeper and CPA can clearly categorize and maximize for you! Here’s how:
KEEP IT SEPARATE
If you are a small business owner who is still mingling personal and business expenses, don’t walk, RUN to your bank. Make sure you have a separate business operating account as well as credit card. The IRS does allow business owners to rely on canceled checks and credit card or bank statements as proof of expenses. BUT if you’ve mixed your accounts, these records will be much less reliable and in case of an audit, you will certainly not be safe from deep scrutiny and possible reversal of deductions.
Clearly defined business accounts makes your books easy to manage and leaves much less room for questionable expenses, mistakes in record keeping and skepticism from the IRS. Only business earnings going in and only business expenses going out leaves a clear and reliable ground work for you to begin your record keeping.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Tech is your friend. If you haven’t already, join the ranks of 2018! There is an abundance of excellent software and apps that can make your record keeping easy and reliable. After you have ensured your business accounts are separate, funnel all the records into the same place using software that makes keeping the facts straight a breeze!
First, make sure you find solutions that fits your unique business. Next, the important thing is that you have something that tracks the details of your income and accounts receivable as well as your spending and accounts payable. You can utilize a combination of software such as Quickbooks Online, ReceiptBank and Bill.com to accomplish your goal of minimal physical paper but maximum records and details in ONE place. Within 5 minutes, you should be able to send an invoice out, receive an invoice from a vendor and buy a cup of coffee for a business meeting and have all of the items get tracked to the same place with details and notes. Your bookkeeper should be setting up a perfect system for you. If you haven’t outsourced this vital job yet, with a few minutes of research and setup, you can get your records flowing to the right places.
KEEP IT NOTED
Once you have your receipts, income and invoices all flowing into one place, make sure you take the time to note the details. DON’T save this task for later. It will inevitably pile up which will only cause you to further avoid it. Most of the time, you put it off so long that by the time you force yourself to sit down and make note of what was what, you don’t remember and the task takes way too precious time out of your busy schedule.
As you are utilizing the software you set up, there should be quick and convenient places to make notes. For instance, many receipts will give a date and amount but often the line items on the receipt are coded in a way that isn’t easily identifiable. Make a quick note as you upload the image that those items were for an open house. Toss the receipt and a minute later, you’ll never have to think about it again. Your bookkeeper or accountant can easily identify the item and place it in the appropriate expense category, getting you your maximum deduction. Again, it is all in the clarity that the details provide. If you do it in the moment and aren’t second guessing yourself later, your financial staff can confidently assure you that your taxes are being filed for you greatest benefit.
Consider that different expenses get different levels of deduction so making sure that you have appropriately noted expenses means that you will get the best deduction. It will also keep you from taking too much deduction inadvertently, saving you from penalties later.
KEEP IT STRAIGHT
Ideally you would have a bookkeeper performing this task for you but either way, you need to make sure that you are reconciling your accounts monthly. Not just your bank but your credit cards and loans as well. Make sure your records match the journey your money takes, from the time it leaves your customers hands to the time it leaves yours. These details are important for several reasons!
For starters, YOU need to see these numbers as the owner in order to make smart decisions as you run your business. They are also what provide the groundwork for how much of a deduction you can take. The tax break/dues come as your income and assets are compared to your expenses. If only one side of this equation is detailed, this is a major red flag for the IRS and will quickly draw their attention. You need to have a complete picture of your business financials so that if you do have years where your expenses exceed your income, any suspicion of tax evasion can be immediately avoided. The IRS doesn’t care how you keep your records. They just require that you keep them and have proof of your money coming in and going out.
The easiest way to do this is in a cloud-based bookkeeping software, like Quickbooks Online. Remember when we talked about using tech to record all of your transactions and funneling all of that to one place? THIS is where that comes together. If you are taking those quick minutes throughout the day to track your money movements, then when you go to reconcile your accounts (a fancy term for making sure they match with the bank statements) it should be easy peasy! All the info should be there to simply match to the bank records.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The overarching theme here is having clear facts. Knowing exactly WHERE your money is coming from, WHERE it goes and HOW it gets there. This is great in theory but doesn’t have to be difficult in practice if you follow the above guidelines. Keep your business funds separate. Create systems to easily track the details of your spending and earnings on the go. On a monthly basis pull all of those details together, reconciling them to your financial institutions and creditors.
If you set up these tools and habits, you won’t have that panic-stricken feeling come tax time. You can confidently hand your business financials over to your accountant and KNOW what has happened in the life of your business in the last year. They can clearly see the building blocks that they are using to build the best tax deduction for you. One that you know won’t come tumbling down in a hot mess of fees and penalties if the taxman comes knocking.