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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Preparing for an IRS Audit

Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, sometimes you might make a mistake on your tax returns and the IRS will audit your business. Most audits are prompted by large losses in your business over a number of years, which would lead the IRS to wonder how you’re producing an income.

Typically, IRS audits are face-to-face, but about one-third of them are letters from the IRS asking for an explanation regarding a specific item on your tax return. Audits can be regarding your entire return or just a portion that the IRS has questions about.

If you receive a letter requesting an explanation, first consult whoever prepared your return. If it was prepared by someone who is not a professional accountant, you should consult one to find out the best way to handle it. Respond in writing, on your company’s letterhead, and provide copies of all related documentation. Always send any correspondence with the IRS by certified mail, so that you can confirm the package was received.

If you have to face the IRS in a personal meeting, make sure that you obtain representation by either a lawyer or CPA (Certified Public Accountant). Don’t try and take care of the situation by yourself, as there are probably many laws and regulations you aren’t fully aware of. You can also have the meeting video taped, but you must give the IRS ten days written notice if you choose to do so.

Logically organize all of your records regarding the issue(s) in question, categorically and chronologically. Neatness and organization will build your credibility with the auditor. Also, be sure that you only bring documentation related to the items that the IRS wants information about. Extra documentation is burdensome and unnecessary, and you don’t want to volunteer information about your taxes if they don’t ask about it.

At minimum, you will need to provide the following documentation:
• bank statements and cancelled checks
• receipts
• print-outs and disk copies of electronic records and logs
• appointment books, calendars and/or journals
• worksheets showing your calculations for each item
• an extra copy of all documentation

It’s important that you keep your cool and don’t get overly defensive, as that might make you seem guilty to the IRS auditor. You may even want to prepare some notes for yourself to remember events and explanations. When you’re in the meeting and under that kind of pressure, you can often simply go blank or stumble over words. Having notes on what you want to convey to the auditor will help you to keep things straight in your head.

After the meeting is over, the auditor will provide a written report regarding his conclusions and what additional taxes, if any, you owe. Keep in mind that, if the meeting and result are unsatisfactory, there is an appeals process available. This is where having a video tape of the meeting will come in handy, especially if the auditor was not willing to hear you out. There is also an appeals process available for any liens, levies or property seizures resulting from an audit, including appeals for hardship reasons.

Overall, if you are prepared and organized and can show that the issue at hand was a legitimate and unintentional mistake, then you will probably only face paying additional taxes. If nothing else, you will have definitely learned from the experience.

Sources:
• Inc.com: Preparing for an Audit
• WorldWideWeb Tax: How to Prepare for an IRS Audit


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, April 24th, 2017 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Taxes |

The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 2)

PART 2 – HOME OFFICE AND MISCELLANEOUS

As a continuation of yesterday’s post, below are some additional tax deductions you should handle carefully.

Home Office
If you work from home, you can only write-off the percentage of your bills related to the area dedicated solely to your business. For accuracy, which is something the IRS appreciates, hire a contractor to measure your home office space professionally and provide the square footage that your home office occupies.

Once you have the measurements, figure out what percentage of your home is dedicated to your business. You can then write-off that percentage of your mortgage/rent, utility bills, etc. Keep in mind, however, that this area of your home must be used exclusively for your business. If it is, in any way, used for personal matters (i.e., your home computer is used for both business and personal), then you cannot right off percentages of your household bills.

Home Computer
If your home computer is used for both personal and business matters, then the expense of the computer is not deductible. Instead, you will need to keep a log of the time you use it for business purposes, much like with your home office. Then, determine a percentage of your time in which you use the computer for business and that is how much of the computer is deductible.

Another option would be to invest in a laptop that you use for business purposes only. This will allow for the entire expense of the laptop to be deductible.

Phone Bills
If you have a home office, phone bills do not fall under the category of bills you can write off a percentage of. As long as your phone, whether a mobile or landline, is not used a lot for personal calls, then you can write off the entire bill.

However, if you use the phone for both, then you will have to be sure and get an itemized bill from the phone company and indicate which calls, both incoming and outgoing, were business related. It’s a good idea to also indicate which client each call was related to.

The best and easiest way to avoid extra time and effort is to simply purchase a separate cell phone or get a separate phone line in your home for business calls only. If you opt for the separate cell phone, you can also write-off the phone itself.

Clothing/Uniforms
As a general rule, if you can wear it outside of your job, such as a new suit you wore for work but also to church or a funeral, then it is not deductible. However, if you perform as a clown for children’s birthday parties, then your clown costume is deductible. Another example would be the costume a Las Vegas showgirl might wear.

These are just a handful of the vast expenses that you might be able to write-off each year. It’s a good idea to consult with a professional accountant if you are not familiar with all the regulations. It’s better to spend a little extra money getting some help the first few times than to make a mistake and get audited.

Part 1: Travel Expenses and Vehicle Usage

Source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Top Tax Write-Offs That Could Get You in Trouble

Recommended Readings:
• Google Answers: Tax Write Offs When Self-Employed
• TheStreet.com: Top Business Write-Off Audit-Triggers
• About.com: 5 Year-end Small Business Tax Tips


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 1)
Moving from a Home Office to a Commercial Space
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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Taxes |

The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 1)

PART 1 – TRAVEL EXPENSES AND VEHICLE USAGE

Write-offs can be headache when it comes to preparing income tax returns for your business. They are often what causes a business to be red-flagged by the IRS because there are so many regulations and many small business owners just aren’t sure how to do it right. I will be addressing this in two parts, simply because there are so many different items to cover.

Here are some pointers on how to handle a couple of the most common tax write-offs correctly.

Travel Expenses
With any travel expenses that you plan to write-off, you will need to be able to prove that the travel was directly related to your business, such as a product convention or meeting with a client.

Flight costs typically aren’t a problem, even if you always fly first class. It’s the limo from the airport to the hotel that would be cause for concern. Meals are deductible at a rate of 50% of the bill. If you are taking client to dinner, you will need to be able to show that you discussed business at the meal.

This is where a journal or electronic log really comes in handy. When traveling on business, be sure to document your daily events, like which clients you spoke to, where and when you met and what you discussed. Should your business ever be audited, the IRS will require you to produce such a journal.

Family vacations are not a tax deduction, unless your family members are part of your business. You have to justify that by holding business meetings or by all parties attending a business convention while on the trip. If you go to the Bahamas and lay on the beach all five days, chances are you really shouldn’t try to write that off.

Vehicle Usage
If a vehicle is used exclusively for your business, then generally you can deduct the entire expenses for operation of the car. However, the standards of “exclusive use” are hard to meet. It’s more likely that your vehicle is used for both personal and business and you will, therefore, have to determine what operation expenses are considered deductible.

Generally, travel between two business destinations is considered a deductible operation of the vehicle. This can mean travel from your home office to the post office to deliver mail or the supply store to get office supplies. This also includes travel from one client’s location to another’s and back to your place of business.

Travel to work locations that are different from that of your regular place of business also count. However, travel from your home to your regular place of business on a daily basis is NOT deductible, even if you have your business advertised on the side of your car.

Generally, travel deductions using a vehicle are calculated by mileage. Again, in your journal, indicate the odometer reading upon departure from a business location and upon arrival at your new business destination. Also indicate how this travel relates to your business.

Part 2: Home Office and Clothing

Sources:
• Entrepreneur.com: Top Tax Write-Offs That Could Get You in Trouble
• TraderStatus.com: Travel Expenses, Meals & Entertainment

Recommended Readings:
• Google Answers: Tax Write Offs When Self-Employed
• TheStreet.com: Top Business Write-Off Audit-Triggers
• About.com: 5 Year-end Small Business Tax Tips


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
The Right Way to Write-Off Business Expenses (Part 2)
IRS Audit Triggers
Moving from a Home Office to a Commercial Space
Transitions are Like Remodeling
Building Your Office

By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Taxes |