New Business

Treatment of Transportation Expenses When Not Traveling Away from Tax Home

When you ride a cab or get in your own car to do business somewhere, have you ever thought of your transportation costs and how much of it you can actually write off? So many materials have been written about deductible expenses when people travel away from their tax homes for business, but those that tackle deductible expenses when not traveling away from home are scarce.

Here, let’s focus on your transportation costs when you are technically not traveling away from home. But before we go to your expenses, remember first that you are considered traveling away from home if you meet the following criteria:

  • Your business or job requires you to be away from your tax home considerably longer than your ordinary day at work.
  • You need to sleep to meet the demands of your work.

If you don’t meet the above mentioned criteria, then you are not traveling away from home so this chapter is for you.

You probably know that the law mostly does not allow deductions for personal expenses, so we’re talking about business expenses here.

Transportation Expenses

By definition, transportation expenses cover your cost of transportation– may it be by rail, bus, taxi or air, as well as the cost of maintaining and driving your own car.

According to the IRS rule, these expenses include all ordinary and necessary costs of the following:

  • Going from one location to another while conducting business or performing your profession, as long as you are traveling within the general area of your tax home.
  • Visiting your customers or clients.
  • Going to a business meeting that is not within the area of your regular workplace.
  • Temporarily going from your home to a workplace when your business or job requires you to have more than one regular place of work. Here, it doesn’t matter whether your temporary workplaces are within the general area of your tax home or not.

Remember that generally, the transportation expenses that will be discussed in this chapter do not include those that you incur when you travel away from your tax home overnight, though the rules here apply when you use your own car to travel away from home overnight as this will cover car expense deductions.

Basically, the transportation expenses that you incur daily when traveling from your home to one or more of your regular workplaces are considered nondeductible. That means that if you ride a bus to travel from your home to one of your regular workplaces, you are generally not allowed to write off the commuting expenses that you incur. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule.

If you go between your home and your temporary workplace outside the general area of your residence, you are allowed to deduct the transportation expenses that you incur. You can also deduct your daily transportation expenses in the following situations:

  • If you have at least one regular work location away from your home.
  • If your home is your regular workplace or place of business and you incur transportation expenses when you go to your home and another work location. However, that work location should fall in the same industry or business, regardless of the distance and regardless of whether the work you do there is permanent or temporary.

When Transportation Expenses are Deductible

Before we go into the finest details, here is a summary of the key locations you should consider and the instances when you can and cannot deduct your transportation expenses:

  • This home is not necessarily your tax home but the place where you live. The transportation expenses that you incur when you travel to and from your regular or main place of work are considered personal commuting expenses and are therefore nondeductible.
  • Regular or Main Job. This refers to your main place of work or business. In the event that you have more than one job, you can determine which of your workplaces your main workplace is by considering the time you spend at each, as well as the activities you have at each and the income you earn at each. While your transportation expense from your main job to your home are nondeductible, your expenses from your main work location to your temporary work location or second job and vice-versa are always deductible.
  • Temporary Work Location. Your temporary work location is any place where you are expected to perform your job in a year or less. You can only write off your transportation expenses to your temporary work location if it is not within your metropolitan area, unless you have a regular workplace or place of business.
  • Second Job. You are allowed to deduct your transportation expenses when you get from one workplace to another if you have more than one job and are required to regularly work in more than one place in a day. Whether or not your two or more jobs are for the same employer, your transportation expenses are always deductible. However, you cannot deduct your transportation expenses if you’re coming from your home going to your second job. Remember that you have to go directly from your first job to your second job for your transportation expenses to be deductible. If you go somewhere else after leaving your first job, the amount you spend for your transportation going to that place is nondeductible.

The above-mentioned rules apply when you incur transportation expenses since you have a regular job away from your home. If your main workplace or place of business is your home, do not use the rules for reference.

How to Know if Your Work Location is Temporary

 If your regularly incur commuting expenses because you have more than one regular work location in the same business away from your residence, you can write off the transportation expenses that you incur for your daily round trip between your home and your temporary workplace, regardless of how near or far that workplace is from your home.

In case you are expected to complete your employment at a particular workplace in a year or less, then your employment is considered temporary. Your employment is not considered temporary if your employment at a work location is expected to last for more than a year.

But what if your employment was initially expected to last for less than a year, but due to unavoidable circumstances, you are suddenly expected to work for more than a year?

In that case, your employment will be treated as temporary and same rules on tax deductions apply. If your temporary workplace is not within the general area of your regular workplace and you stay there overnight, then you are considered traveling away from home and the treatment of your transportation expenses depends on the rules under the Traveling Away From Home section of the IRS Publication 463.

 If You Do Not Have a Regular Place of Work

 If you do not have a regular place of work but usually works in the metropolitan area of your residence, you can write off your daily transportation expenses between your home and temporary workplace that goes beyond that metropolitan area. The IRS defines this metropolitan area as the area which covers the area within the city boundaries, as well as the outskirts of the city.

Keep in mind that you cannot write off your daily transportation costs if your temporary workplace is located just within the metropolitan area because these expenses are considered nondeductible.

When You Have Two Places of Work

 Some people have more than one job in a day, and therefore have to go to two work locations in a day. If you are one of them, you are allowed to deduct your transportation expenses when you get from your first work location to the other and vice-versa. That is regardless of whether or not your two jobs are for the same employer.

But what if for some personal reason you fail to go directly from your first work location to the next?

In that case, you are not allowed to deduct your transportation expenses because the rule states that you cannot write off more than the amount it costs you to go directly from your first workplace to the next.

For instance, it’s your day off from your main job and you incur transportation expenses when you go between your home and your part-time job, such costs are considered commuting expenses and are therefore nondeductible.

When You are a Member of the Armed Forces Reserve Unit

 Specific laws are set in place for people who are members of the Armed Forces reserve unit.

Say you have a meeting in that unit. If that meeting is held on a day when you are not off from your main job, then the venue of the meeting is considered as a second place of business and the transportation expenses you incur in getting there from your main workplace are deductible.

However, if the meeting is held on a day when you don’t work at your regular job, your transportation expenses become nondeductible.

The story is different if the place where the meeting is held is temporary and you have more than one regular place of work.

Say you regularly work in a certain metropolitan area but not at any specific location in that area, and the meeting is temporarily held outside that metropolitan. In that case, you are allowed to deduct your travel expenses.

Your transportation expenses also become deductible if your being a reservist requires you to travel more than 100 miles away from your residence. If you travel that distance in connection with your performance as a reservist, you can deduct some of your costs not as itemized deductions but as an adjustment to your gross income.

Commuting Expenses

 Generally, commuting expenses are the transportation costs you incur when you commute from your home to your main place of work and vice-versa. The costs of taking a trolley, bus, taxi or subway between your home and your regular work location are nondeductible since the law sees them as personal commuting expenses.

Regardless of how far your residence is from your regular place of work, you cannot deduct your transportation expenses.

You may ask, what if you still work during the commuting trip?

Performing your job during your commuting trip does not change your commuting expenses from personal to business expenses.

Take this as an example. You use your phone to make business calls while commuting. Or you have your own car and colleague rides with you on your way home. During you travel, you engage in a business discussion. In both cases, your transportation expenses remain personal and nondeductible.

When you commute to and from work, your taxi fare usually is not the only cost covered by your transportation. Take a look at these accompanying commuting expenses:

  • Parking Fees. When you bring your own car to work and pay to park your car at the parking lot of your business location, the parking fee is nondeductible. The only parking fee that is considered deductible is that which you pay for when you visit a client.
  • Advertising Display on Car. Just because you put display material advertising your company does not necessarily mean that your car is for business use, so the expenses you incur for putting such displays on your car are all nondeductible.
  • Car Pools. When you use your car in a nonprofit car pool, you still cannot write off the cost of doing that. You should not include the payments that you receive from your passengers in your income. However, you may do otherwise if you operate a car pool for a profit. In that case, you may include their payments in your income and then deduct your car expenses.
  • Hauling Tools or Instruments. Hauling instruments in your car when you are commuting to and from work does not make your transportation expenses deductible.

 When Your Home Qualifies as a Principal Place of Business

 If you consider the place where you live as your main place of work or business, your daily transportation costs between your home and your other work location are deductible. Take note, however, that the work you do in your home and in the other workplace must be in the same business.

All things considered, it is safe to say that nothing in tax law is straightforward, no matter how easy you may find identifying deductible transportation expenses is.

Meal Expenses: How Much Can You Deduct?

Treating your customers and employees occasionally is one of the best ways to build your business. Going the extra mile to make them feel valued goes a long way, although you may not see that now. If you worry about the expenses you may incur taking them out for a meal, you shouldn’t because meals are considered a legitimate business tax deduction. In fact, even your own meals can also be deductible. But of course, there are limits on what you can write off.

Meals become a legitimate tax deduction only in these two situations:

  • You are traveling away from your tax home for your business or job and need to stop to get considerable rest somewhere so you can perform your duties well.
  • The meal is related to your business or job.

If you satisfy either of the two situations, then your meal becomes a deductible expense.

Now let us set aside business-related meals and focus on the first situation. The IRS law states that when you are traveling away from your tax home for work–may that be for your job or business—your meal expenses become deductible. Does that mean that you can eat whatever you want while on duty and completely write everything off? The answer is no.

Actually, there are meals that you can completely write off, while there are meals that are only subject to 50% deductions. You can also not eat too lavish or extravagant meals and expect them to be deductible. In that case, you purchase your meal at your own expense.

Too Lavish or Extravagant Meals

 The law states that meals that are too lavish or extravagant are never deductible. But how do you gauge the lavishness or extravagance of a meal?

Simple. As per the IRS Rule 463, “An expense isn’t considered lavish or extravagant if it is reasonable based on the facts and circumstances.” Just because you conduct business at a high-end restaurant does not necessarily mean that you are being lavish. In fact, the law won’t disallow your meal expenses just because the meal takes place at a deluxe restaurant or hotel.

If you are treating a potential client you are trying to close a deal with, treating him to a sumptuous meal at a high-end restaurant is reasonable enough. However, if you are only conducting a business meeting with your employees to discuss your Christmas party, treating them to a buffet restaurant doesn’t seem reasonable at all. Again, it depends on the facts and circumstances.

Now it’s clear that you cannot deduct expenses for lavish and extravagant meals. However, that is not the only exception. While lavish meals are totally not subject to deductions, some meals are subject to deductions but only to a certain limit.

50% Limit on Meals

 In the law, there exists this 50% limit when it comes to meals and other entertainment expenses. Determining which of your meal expenses are subject to this limit is necessary to know how much you should write off. You use the following methods to figure your meal expenses:

  • Actual Cost.
  • The Standard Meal Allowance.

Notwithstanding the method that you use, remember that you are allowed to deduct only 50% of the unreimbursed cost of your meals. In case you are reimbursed for the cost, how you apply the limit solely depends on the reimbursement plan of your employer. Is it accountable or non-accountable? On the other hand, if you are totally not reimbursed, the limit applies regardless of what the unreimbursed meal expense is for. That means that whether your meal is for business entertainment or business travel, your unreimbursed meal expense is always subject to the limit.

Now let’s go back to the two methods that you can use to figure your meal expenses–the actual cost and the standard meal allowance.

Actual Cost

 This method is less complicated compared with the other method. You simply use the actual cost of your meals to determine the amount of your expense before reimbursing the cost and applying the 50% limit on deductions. If there is one important thing that you should remember when using this method, it’s that you should always keep your records to prove your expenses.

Standard Meal Allowance

 If you do not want to use the actual cost method, you are free to use this method in figuring your expenses for meals.

Generally, this alternative method lets you make use of a set or fixed amount for your daily meals and incidental expenses (M & IE) instead of backing up your actual costs with records, particularly receipts. Well, of course you can still keep receipts for future reference, but you won’t need them as much as you will need them when you use the actual cost method. Under this method, the set amount hugely depends on where and when you travel.

The standard meal allowance method makes mention of a fixed amount for daily meals and incidental expenses. You may probably ask, what are those incidental expenses?

Incidental Expenses

 According to the IRS Publication 463, incidental expenses refer to the fees and tips that you usually give to baggage carriers, porters, hotel staff and the likes. Since they are only incidental, they are not your main expenses. However, these incidental expenses supplement your main expenses.

While these expenses are only considered supplementary expenses, they do not include the money you spend for laundry, lodging, pressing of clothes, mailing cost and telephone or telegram charges.

Incidental-Expenses-Only

 There are days when you do not get to incur any expense for your meals. If that is the case, then you may use the incidental-expenses-only method in determining the amount of deductions you are entitled to. This method is an optional method that you can use instead of the actual cost method if you want to write off your incidental expenses only. When you use this method, you can deduct $5 a day from your expenses if you did not spend anything for your meals.

You should also note that you cannot use the incidental-expenses-only method just whenever you want, or on any day that you apply the standard meal allowance method in determining your deductions. The proration rules for partial days strictly apply to this method. However, it is not subject to the 50% limit on meal deductions.

But how will you know if your meal allowance is subject to the 50% limit? Well, this limit is a bit tricky so you have to learn the ropes.

50% Limit on Meal Deductions

Say you are not reimbursed after applying the standard meal allowance method for your meal expenses, or you used the same method but are reimbursed under a non-accountable plan. In that case, you are allowed to write off only 50% of you standard meal allowance.

This goes the same way if you are reimbursed under an accountable plan and are writing off expenses that are more than your reimbursements. In that case, you are allowed to deduct only 50% of the excess amount.

Are You Allowed to Use the Standard Meal Allowance Method?

 Whether you are an employer or an employee, you are free to use this method. It also doesn’t matter whether you are recompensed for your traveling expenses or not because either way, you can use the same method. But while the law is somewhat lenient when it comes to the use of the standard meal allowance, you should remember that there is also a limit as to where you can use it.

If you are traveling for investment or other income-generating activities, you can use this method in treating your expenses. If you travel for qualifying educational purposes, that is also acceptable. However, if you travel for charitable or medical purposes, you cannot use this method in figuring the cost of your meals.

Is There Any Standard Rate for the Standard Meal Allowance?

 The standard rate for the standard meal allowance is equivalent to the federal M & IE rate. As of 2016, the standard amount for travels in most of the small localities in the United States is set at $51 per day. This rate does not apply to the country’s major cities and localities, which are considered high-cost areas. In their case, higher standard meal allowances apply.

If you want to know the amount of standard meal allowance in the state you are in, you may visit www.gsa.gov/perdiem for the per diem rates of each state for the current fiscal year. You just have to enter the zip code of the city or state that you want to know the per diem rates of through the dropdown menu.

What if You Travel to More Than One Location in a Day?

 If that is the case, then you have to use the applicable rate in the location where you stayed longer to take a rest or sleep. However, the same rule does not apply if you are working in the transportation sector. Workers in the transportation industry are entitled to special rates and are not covered by the mentioned rate for the standard meal allowance.

But how do you know that you are working in the transportation industry? Take a look at these requirements:

  • Your job directly involves transporting goods or people by plane, bus, train, ship, barge or truck.
  • You are regularly required to travel away from your tax home and in one single trip, you become eligible for different standard meal allowance rates.

Once you confirm that you are actually working in the transportation sector, remember that you are allowed to claim a standard meal allowance of $63 a day for your travels. You become entitled to this special rate so that you no longer need to know the standard meal allowance that applies to each and every area where you stop for sleep. When reporting on your income tax return, make sure that you use this special rate for all your travels and not the regular standard meal allowance rates for each state.

When it comes to the federal government’s fiscal year to use, it’s up to you. Once you visit the GSA website to check out the list of the per diem rates of each city or state, you may either choose the rates from the 2016 fiscal year table or the 2017 table to report your travels, which is crucial in determining your income tax return for one fiscal year. However, you have to be consistent. If you use the 2016 table in reporting one travel, then you must use the same table for all the other travels you are reporting.

What if You Travel Outside the U.S.?

 The Department of Defense has assigned locations which can be considered foreign areas and non-foreign areas. The standard meal allowance rates mentioned above do not apply to these areas.

There are special rates that apply to non-foreign areas like Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virginia Islands, American Samoa and Wake Island, as well as to non-foreign areas which are geographically located outside the continental U.S.

If you travel to a non-foreign area outside the U.S. and want to know the per diem rate that apply to your travel location, go to www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/perdiemCalc.cfm. But if your travel location is a foreign area, you must go to www.state.gov/travel/. Under the Foreign Per Diem Rates, click on Travel Per Diem Allowances for Foreign Areas. You will then see the list of per diem rates in the area that you are looking for.

 Whether you are allowed to use the standard meal allowance, entitled to special rates, travel in the U.S. or outside the U.S., it is always critical that you maintain proper records to substantiate all your meals. Always be on the safe side by making sure that you have something to present to back up your expenses once the need for an audit arises in the future.

Bookkeeping and Accounting for Starters

At the outset, startups and new businesses have to operate with limited resources, sometimes making difficult choices between operational outlays and administrative needs. However, no matter how strapped you are for time and money, getting your accounting and bookkeeping affairs in order when starting a new business will help you avoid any potential pitfalls. So prior to making your first business purchase, hiring your first employee or, even better, signing your first client, make sure you’ve managed your finances.

Financial talks

Your finances in the early stages of your business are crucial because they are a key driver of growth – which is what business is all about, particularly in the beginnings. There are just so many things that rely on the finances of your startup including:

  1. Your potential for growth. The healthier your finances, the more likely you are to be able to grow.
  1. Your reputation. If you’ve got a good financial footing, creditors and potential business partners can see this and will view the company more positively – this is fantastic if you’re looking to borrow in order to grow.
  1. Your capability. You might have grand ideas, but there’s not much you are able to do if all of your money is stuck in an endless stream of unnecessary expenses and overheads – good finances mean using your money sensibly.

The financials of your startup are integral to the company, and it’s important not to underestimate the role that they play – especially in regards to how other companies, creditors or investors view you.

Balancing the books

In order to balance your books, you have to keep careful track of these items and be sure the transactions that deal with assets, liabilities, and equity are recorded correctly and in the right place. Balanced books may not be sexy, but they provide small business owners with the grounding they need to make smart decisions about expanding the business, making large purchases, and hiring new employees. The language of accounting professionals can be intimidating, especially if you’re the type of person whose financial record keeping consists of handing a box of receipts to your tax preparer once a year. Don’t despair! At the most basic level, you only need to understand three words: assets, liabilities, and equity. Throw in some simple addition and subtraction, and you’ve balanced your books.

 Assets = liabilities + equity

The accounting equation means that everything the business owns (assets) is balanced against claims against the business (liabilities and equity). Liabilities are claims based on what you owe vendors and lenders. Owners of the business have claims against the remaining assets (equity).

Your first task is to choose your accounting period. Most businesses balance their books for each calendar month or each quarter. When you are new to the process, balancing your books each month will make the task more manageable.

If you use a cash accounting system, as many small-business owners do, and you want to start at the most basic level, you can simply write two columns of numbers on a piece of paper: assets on one side and liabilities on the other.  Total each column, subtract liabilities from assets and the resulting number should equal your business equity.

Accounting software can simplify your bookkeeping since most banks will allow you to download account information directly into the program. After you load the data, your only task is to review the entries and make sure each one is tagged with the correct category. Keeping a separate business bank account makes this process easy and efficient.

Accounting 101

Whether you do your accounting by hand on ledger sheets or use accounting software, these principles are exactly the same.

Step 1. Keep your receipts.

Comprehensive summaries of your business’s income and expenses are the heart of the accounting process. But they can’t legally be created in a vacuum. Each of your business’s sales and purchases must be backed by some type of record containing the amount, the date, and other relevant information about that sale. This is true whether your accounting is done by computer or on hand-posted ledgers.

From a legal point of view, your method of keeping receipts can range from slips kept in a cigar box to a sophisticated cash register hooked into a computer system. Practically, you’ll want to choose a system that fits your business needs. For example, a small service business that handles only relatively few jobs may get by with a bare-bones approach. But the more sales and expenditures your business makes, the better your receipt filing system needs to be. The bottom line is to choose or adapt one to suit your needs.

Step 2. Decide on your method.

You will have to decide which type of accounting method to use for your business and then apply this method consistently. Cash basis accounting means that income is recorded when funds are received instead of when the income is earned. Likewise, expenses area recorded when they are paid out instead of when they are incurred.

Using the accrual basis means reporting income and expenses as they are earned even without the actual exchange of cash for goods and services. Expenses are recorded at the time they are made instead of when they are paid off. The accrual basis is the required method for businesses that handle inventory and bigger businesses generating at least $1 million in annual revenue. Professionals in business for themselves such as lawyers, doctors, accountants and others are exempt from this requirement regardless of their annual income.

Step 3. Setting up and posting ledgers.

A completed ledger is really nothing more than a summary of revenues, expenditures, and whatever else you’re keeping track of (entered from your receipts according to category and date). Later, you’ll use these summaries to answer specific financial questions about your business such as whether you’re making a profit, and if so, how much.

Most businesses carry accounts for cash on hand, a checking account used for rolling revenue and expenditures, and ancillary accounts as necessary to properly manage their funds. Your ledgers can be in accounting software; personal finance software, which is sufficient for some small businesses; or the old school paper ledger. If you find it difficult to keep accurate and complete records on a computer, use paper as a temporary holding place until you can enter transactions into your software.

You’ll start with a blank ledger page (a sheet with lines) or, more often these days, a computer file of empty rows and columns. On some regular basis like every day, once a week, or at least once a month, you should transfer the amounts from your receipts for sales and purchases into your ledger. Called “posting,” how often you do this depends on how many sales and expenditures your business makes and how detailed you want your books to be.

Generally speaking, the more sales you do, the more often you should post to your ledger. A retail store, for instance, that does hundreds of sales amounting to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars every day should probably post daily. With that volume of sales, it’s important to see what’s happening every day and not to fall behind with the paperwork. To do this, the busy retailer should use a cash register that totals and posts the day’s sales to a computerized bookkeeping system at the push of a button. A slower business, however, or one with just a few large transactions per month, such as a small Web site design shop, dog-sitting service, or swimming pool repair company, would probably be fine if it posted weekly or even monthly.

To get started on a hand-entry system, get ledger pads from any office supply store. Alternatively, you can purchase an accounting software program that will generate its own ledgers as you enter your information. All but the tiniest new businesses are well advised to use an accounting software package to help keep their books (and micro-businesses can get by with personal finance software such as Quicken). That’s because once you’ve entered your daily, weekly, or monthly numbers, accounting software makes preparing monthly and yearly financial reports incredibly easy.

Step 4. Creating basic financial reports.

Financial reports are important because they bring together several key pieces of financial information about your business. Think of it this way – while your income ledger may tell you that your business brought in a lot of money during the year, you may have no way of knowing whether you turned a profit without measuring your income against your total expenses. And even comparing your monthly totals of income and expenses won’t tell you whether your credit customers are paying fast enough to keep adequate cash flowing through your business to pay your bills on time. That’s why you need financial reports: to combine data from your ledgers and sculpt it into a shape that shows you the big picture of your business.

Aside from your records, it could also help that you have templates or actual documents for purchase orders, receipts, invoices and similar paperwork depending on your type of operations. Make sure that your forms include your contact information such as physical address, email, and phone numbers. Many templates are available online, allowing you to customize the forms as needed. You can also take the traditional route, which is ordering customized forms from a printer.

Step 5. Anticipate your credits and debits.

Create an upcoming payment schedule of all future payments anticipated by your business, such as rent, utilities, and other recurring payments. This is called your Accounts Payable, or AP. If you have upcoming one-time expenses which you would like to make, you can also use this ledger to budget for them; for example, if you would like to spend $5,000 on renovations in January, you can book that as a $1,000 set-aside for the months of August through December. Many businesses book their AP with two dates: the date it is due and the deadline which is it actually due before penalties are incurred.

Furthermore, create upcoming monies received in a schedule, which anticipates future receipts. This is called your Accounts Receivable, or AR. This ledger is most important for businesses that process invoices to their clients, and hence do not receive payments until their clients actually cut the checks. If you are using software, it is crucially important that AR payments do not automatically roll over into actual payments received ledger. You do not want to book a payment scheduled for 7/15 that does not actually arrive until 7/22, or you risk bouncing checks drawn against that amount.

Step 6. Checks and balances.

Reconcile your ledgers with your bank statements. This is where accounting software truly shines over paper ledgers; most software will automatically download your bank records and allow you to quickly mark which payments and deposits are already recorded in your ledger, and which must be separately accounted. This is typically done on a monthly schedule, but with software and online banking, it is not onerous to do this on a weekly or even daily schedule—and this is not too often for a small business.

 

If all of this seem to overwhelm you, it could be beneficial to get the service of a professional accountant to do the nitty gritty for you. Your accounting needs will change as your business grows, but as a startup, it may be helpful to have an accountant to guide your set-up process. You may prefer to do the bookkeeping yourself to save costs, but at least, have a professional assist you with setting up and defining accounts for easier recording, tracking and data analysis.

Accounting services for new businesses may also include assistance for filing incorporation papers, obtaining the necessary business licenses, establishing policies, procedures and guidelines for record keeping and system implementations. Your accountant may also help you choose the accounting software that is most suitable for your company. As the business grows, the accountant’s role may change to include payroll and tax preparation, analyzing data and preparing financial and management reports.

Getting Started with Your Very Own Business Venture

A great start-up business always starts out as an idea, but you have to transform that idea into action. That’s where many individuals can start to feel overwhelmed. It’s understandable to freeze up at the deluge of things that are required to get a business started, but getting going is actually easier than you might think.

Like any big goal, if you start by breaking it down into smaller tasks, you’ll be able to tackle enough of the actions necessary to get started. Here are six ways to break down the process and simplify getting started with your own small business.

Right now, aspiring entrepreneurs all across the country are planning their paths to business ownership. It’s a journey that requires a lot of hard work, and many people end up failing. But if your company survives, the rewards of entrepreneurship are well worth the obstacles you’ll face on the road to success.

Choose your Industry

Every new business starts with an idea. Maybe there’s something you are really knowledgeable and passionate about, or perhaps you think you’ve found a way to fill a gap in the marketplace. Wherever your interests lie, it’s almost guaranteed that there’s a way to turn it into a business. If you know your strengths and what you enjoy, you are more likely to tackle a business problem that is best suited to your skills and interests and is less sensitive to your shortcomings. Capitalize on your strengths, and accept input from advisors and the team on decisions outside your range. Everyone will see you as a better listener and a stronger leader who is not autocratic and knows how to tackle the many unknowns of a new business. Too many people fail because they are working on someone else’s problem. You won’t be happy in the wrong business.

Another option is to open a franchise of an established company. The concept, brand following, and business model are already in place; all you need is a good location and the means to fund your operation.

Once you’ve narrowed your list of ideas down to one or two, do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what the current brand leaders are doing, and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don’t (or deliver the same thing, but faster and cheaper), you’ve got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.

Writing the Business Plan

During the brainstorming, you should also start thinking about your business plan. A smart entrepreneur has a vision of where he/she sees herself and the business in the foreseeable future and writing it down in a business plan helps you stay on track and focus on your goal. A business plan is an essential road map for business success. This living document generally projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines the route a company intends to take to grow revenues.

Among the possible sub parts of your business plan includes the:

  1. Executive Summary which is the snapshot of your business plan as a whole and touches on your company profile and goals. This section briefly tells your reader where your company is, where you want to take it, and why your business idea will be successful. If you are seeking financing, the executive summary is also your first opportunity to grab a potential investor’s interest.
  1. Company Description provides information on what you do, what differentiates your business from others, and the markets your business serves. This section of your business plan provides a high-level review of the different elements of your business. This is akin to an extended elevator pitch and can help readers and potential investors quickly understand the goal of your business and its unique proposition.
  1. Service or Product Line answers questions like what do you sell? How does it benefit your customers? What is the product life cycle? Get tips on how to tell the story about your product or service. If you have any existing, pending, or any anticipated copyright or patent filings, list them here. Also, disclose whether any key aspects of a product may be classified as trade secrets. Last, include any information pertaining to existing legal agreements, such as nondisclosure or non-compete agreements.
  1. Funding Request and Financial Projection tackles the possibilities if you need funding. This provides financial projections to back up your request is critical. You should develop the Financial Projections section after you’ve analyzed the market and set clear objectives. That’s when you can allocate resources efficiently.  If you are planning to make your new business your full-time job, it’s wise to wait until you have at least some money put away for startup costs and for sustaining yourself in the beginning before you start making a profit.
  1. Marketing & Sales reveals how you plan to market your business? What is your sales strategy? Marketing is the process of creating customers, and customers are the lifeblood of your business. In this section, the first thing you want to do is define your marketing strategy. There is no single way to approach a marketing strategy; your strategy should be part of an ongoing business-evaluation process and unique to your company. After you have developed a comprehensive marketing strategy, you can then define your sales strategy. This covers how you plan to actually sell your product.

Selecting Your Preferred Business Structure

An important step in forming a new business is to choose the type of business structure you will use. There are several types of business entities to choose from, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, and limited partnership. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, as well as tax consequences of which you should be aware. When beginning a business, you must decide what form of business entity to establish. Your form of business determines which income tax return form you have to file. Legal and tax considerations enter into selecting a business structure.

You have to decide which of these entities best suits your business objectives and needs. You can get help in making this decision from a tax practitioner, such as an accountant, enrolled agent, or attorney. A tax practitioner can also provide information about how to establish the business structure you choose.

As an entrepreneur, you will have no place and no one to hide behind. Knowledge of yourself is the key to confidence, and confidence builds leadership. Building a new business requires good leadership to develop the market, attract customers, motivate the team and conquer the unknowns.

Register your Business

Obviously, you need to register your business and declare proprietorship to it. But before you can do that, you have to settle on what to call it. Naming your business is an important branding exercise, but if you choose to name your business as anything other than your own personal name then you’ll need to register it with the appropriate authorities. This process is known as registering your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name.

Choosing a business name is an important step in the business planning process. Not only should you pick a name that reflects your brand identity, but you also need to ensure it is properly registered and protected for the long term. You should also give a thought to whether it’s web-ready. Many businesses start out as freelancers, solo operations, or partnerships. In these cases, it’s easy to fall back on your own name as your business name. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it does make it tougher to present a professional image and build brand awareness.

After you register your business, the next step is obtaining an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or simply to save yourself the trouble later on if you decide to hire someone else.

Take Care of the Legalities

To run your business legally, there are certain federal and state licenses and permits you will need to obtain. For some other industries like buying and selling liquor, special certificates are needed before you start operating or else you might find yourself and business in an unnecessary trouble. The form of business you operate determines what taxes you must pay and how you pay them. The following are the five general types of business taxes according to Internal Revenue Services.

 Income Tax

All businesses except partnerships must file an annual income tax return. Partnerships file an information return. The form you use depends on how your business is organized. The federal income tax is a pay-as-you-go tax. You must pay the tax as you earn or receive income during the year. An employee usually has income tax withheld from his or her pay. If you do not pay your tax through withholding or do not pay enough tax that way, you might have to pay estimated tax. If you are not required to make estimated tax payments, you may pay any tax due when you file your return.

Estimated tax

Generally, taxes must be paid as you earn or receive income during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. If the amount of income tax withheld from your salary or pension is not enough, or if you receive income such as interest, dividends, alimony, self-employment income, capital gains, prizes, and awards, you may have to make estimated tax payments. If you are in business for yourself, you generally need to make estimated tax payments. Estimated tax is used to pay not only income tax but other taxes such as self-employment tax and alternative minimum tax.

If you don’t pay enough tax through withholding and estimated tax payments, you may be charged a penalty. You also may be charged a penalty if your estimated tax payments are late, even if you are due a refund when you file your tax return.

Self-Employment Tax

Self-employment tax (SE tax) is a social security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. Your payments of SE tax contribute to your coverage under the social security system. Social security coverage provides you with retirement benefits, disability benefits, survivor benefits, and hospital insurance (Medicare) benefits.

It should be noted that anytime self-employment tax is mentioned, it only refers to Social Security and Medicare taxes and does not include any other taxes that self-employed individuals may be required to file.

 Excise Tax

This section describes the excise taxes you may have to pay and the forms you have to file if you do any of the following. Excise taxes are taxes paid when purchases are made on a specific good, such as gasoline. Excise taxes are often included in the price of the product. There are also excise taxes on activities, such as on wagering or on highway usage by trucks. One of the major components of the excise program is motor fuel.

  • Manufacture or sell certain products.
  • Operate certain kinds of businesses.
  • Use various kinds of equipment, facilities, or products.
  • Receive payment for certain services.

 Form 720 – The federal excise taxes consist of several broad categories of taxes, including the following.

  • Environmental taxes.
  • Communications and air transportation taxes.
  • Fuel taxes.
  • Tax on the first retail sale of heavy trucks, trailers, and tractors.
  • Manufacturers taxes on the sale or use of a variety of different articles

Employment Taxes

When you have employees, you as the employer have certain employment tax responsibilities that you must pay and forms you must file. Employment taxes include the following:

  • Social security and Medicare taxes
  • Federal income tax withholding
  • Federal unemployment (FUTA) tax

Aside from national laws that your business needs to abide by, there are also local state laws that you need to be aware of and observe for a smooth sailing operation. It is very important where your establishment located, and what government rules apply.

 

The good and the bad news is that as an entrepreneur, you won’t have a manager charged with directing your efforts or peers helping you implement, and your new team will be quick to tell you only what you want to hear. Thus the burden is on you to capitalize on your strengths, find co-founders and team members to fill the gaps and find mentors and advisors you trust.

Know What Kind of Documents are Needed When Claiming Business Travel Expenses

It is clear that taxpayers can deduct regular travel expenses when the trip is entirely business related. Additionally, if the taxpayer is on a domestic business trip and made personal side trips or stayed longer than the business purpose required, then the expenses must be allocated between business and personal. The portion of the trip dedicated to business activities is deductible. Any portion related to personal activities is not deductible.

However, if a trip is primarily for personal activities, such as a vacation, then the only deductible business expenses are those incurred at the destination that is directly related to the trade or business and none of the expenses for traveling to the destination are deductible.

IRS parameters

In general, all trip expenses must be recorded on the travel expense statement including procurement card expenses. If a trip is paid for entirely by procurement card, a travel expense statement must be completed and approved. It is not necessary to enter this travel report in AIS; however, the statement and documentation must be retained in the department. As a best practice, the supplemental procurement card expenses form should be used to detail procurement card activity. If the supplemental form is not completed, all procurement card expenses should be clearly marked on the travel expense statement. Procurement card expenses should be deducted from the total expense using line #22. The original procurement card receipts should be kept in the department or school procurement card files.

Even if the expense is clearly deductible the deduction can be denied if not substantiated. Taxpayers must keep adequate records and documentary evidence. However, the taxpayer can use the per diem method of deducting expenses and still satisfy the substantiation requirements for the amount of the expense. The time, place, and business purpose must still be substantiated through adequate records and documentary evidence. The per diem method can be used by employers, employees and self-employed individuals. Self-employed individuals and employees can only use the per diem method for a meal and incidental expenses, not lodging. Additionally, a taxpayer, whether employer or employee or self-employed can alternate during the year between the per diem method and the actual expense method. The per diem rates for travel can be found at www.gsa.gov/perdiem.

Taxpayers in the transportation industry may use a special per diem rate. A taxpayer eligible for this rate is in the transportation industry if the work directly involves moving people or goods by airplane, barge, bus, ship, train or truck and often requires travel during a single trip to localities with differing rates in the per diem tables. These rates, if chosen, must be used for the entire year.

According to the streamlined guidelines set by the Internal Revenue Services (IRS), there are a couple of documentation that should always be kept, regardless of circumstances or situation, to make sure that you can have an easier time in proving that your trip was primarily for business purposes. While it is best to log in everything, these ones below are the most crucial documentations needed to stake your claim.

Gross receipts are the income you receive from your business. You should keep supporting documents that show the amounts and sources of your gross receipts. Documents for gross receipts include the following:

  • Cash register tapes
  • Deposit information (cash and credit sales)
  • Receipt books
  • Invoices
  • Forms 1099-MISC

Purchases are the items you buy and resell to customers. If you are a manufacturer or producer, this includes the cost of all raw materials or parts purchased for manufacture into finished products. Your supporting documents should show the amount paid and that the amount was for purchases. Documents for purchases include the following:

  • Cancelled checks or other documents that identify payee, amount, and proof of payment/electronic funds transferred
  • Cash register tape receipts
  • Credit card receipts and statements
  • Invoices

Expenses are the costs you incur (other than purchases) to carry on your business. Your supporting documents should show the amount paid and a description that shows the amount was for a business expense. Documents for expenses include the following:

  • Cancelled checks or other documents that identify payee, amount, and proof of payment/electronic funds transferred
  • Cash register tapes
  • Account statements
  • Credit card receipts and statements
  • Invoices
  • Petty cash slips for small cash payments

Travel, Transportation, Entertainment, and Gift Expenses. If you deduct travel, entertainment, gift or transportation expenses, you must be able to prove (substantiate) certain elements of expenses.  For additional information, Publication 463 of the IRS document provides more details with regard to Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.

Assets are the property, such as machinery and furniture that you own and use in your business. You must keep records to verify certain information about your business assets. You need records to compute the annual depreciation and the gain or loss when you sell the assets. Documents for assets should show the following information:

  • When and how you acquired the assets
  • Purchase price
  • Cost of any improvements
  • Section 179 deduction taken
  • Deductions are taken for depreciation
  • Deductions are taken for casualty losses, such as losses resulting from fires or storms
  • How you used the asset
  • When and how you disposed of the asset
  • Selling price
  • Expenses of sale

The following documents may show this information.

  • Purchase and sales invoices
  • Real estate closing statements
  • Cancelled checks or other documents that identify payee, amount, and proof of payment/electronic funds transferred

Meals

Amounts paid for food and reasonable restaurant gratuities while traveling away from home are another deduction. The IRS gives taxpayers two methods to calculate meal costs. It publishes daily per diem rates applicable to various geographic areas that you can use without regard to the amount actually spent. Alternatively, you can keep records of all meals and list the total costs paid. Regardless of the method chosen, the total allowable meal expense gets a further 50 percent deduction. Calculate this reduction before applying the 2 percent adjusted gross income limitation.

Instead of keeping records for meal costs, the taxpayer can claim an IRS meal allowance, which is referred to as the M&IE per diem rate (for meals and incidental expenses). The M&IE rate includes tips for service people such as porters, and hotel maids, but does not include the cost of laundry, cleaning, or pressing of clothing, which can be deducted separately with the proper documentation. Self-employed individuals can claim the M&IE allowance, but employees may only claim the allowance if they are not reimbursed under an accountable plan, if their employer is not related to them, and if they do not own more than 10% of the employer’s outstanding stock.

The standard meal allowance for travel within the Conterminous (or Continental) United States (CONUS), meaning locations within the continental United States, is $46 per day, although higher rates may apply to more expensive localities such as major metropolitan areas and resort areas. Outside of the Conterminous United States (OCONUS) rates apply for travel to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, United States possessions, and foreign countries. Generally, only 75% of the allowance can be claimed for the 1st and last days of the trip. Workers in the transportation industry who are subject to the Department of Transportation hours of service limits, such as interstate truck drivers and pilots can deduct 80% of their meal costs. CONUS rates can be found by zip code or by city and state.

If meals are not claimed on a particular day but the taxpayer had other incidental costs, then instead of using actual costs, an allowance of $5 per day can be claimed for the incidental expenses, even if the actual expenses were less than that.

Important documentation features

Substantiate is a fancy way to say: the taxpayer has to prove it. Taxpayers must keep evidence of business travel expenses in order to deduct them. The information that must be noted:

  1. The date. The date the expense was incurred will usually be listed on a receipt or credit card slip; appointment books, day planners, and similar documents have the dates pre-printed on each page, so entries on the appropriate page automatically date the expense.
  1. The amount. How much you spent, including tax and tip for meals.
  1. The place. The nature and place of the entertainment or meal will usually be shown by a receipt, or you can record it in an appointment book.
  1. The business purpose. Show that the expense was incurred for your business — for example, to obtain future business, encourage existing business relationships, and so on. What you need to show depends on whether the business conversation occurred before, during, or after entertainment or a meal.
  1. The business relationship. If entertainment or meals are involved, show the business relationship of people at the event — for example, list their names and occupations and any other information needed to establish their business relation to you.

Cautions

Trying to write off your personal vacation as a business expense isn’t worth the risk. “You have to recognize that travel and entertainment is a highly suspect area,” Barbara Weltman, a tax and law expert and the author of JK Lasser’s Small Business Tax Guide, said. “It’s an area that the IRS is on the lookout for because of the potential of crossing the line a little bit and claiming business write-offs for what are really personal expenses. You can assume that if you get audited the IRS is going to look very closely at this area, so you want to make sure you do things right.”

When traveling or entertaining for business purposes, it’s important to document everything.  It’s not enough to just keep receipts, you also need to document who you spoke with, what you spoke about, and how it was related to your business. For travel, the IRS also requires you to keep a written or electronic log, made near the time that you make the expenditure, recording the time, place, amount and business purpose of each expense. This once took the form of expense reports. Increasingly, online programs and even apps, like Tax Tracker, are available for documenting business expenses.

Weltman also suggests creating a paper trail that can be traced if you are audited by the IRS. Take notes on meetings you attend while traveling, keep programs of conferences you attend, sign into conferences, and keep e-mails sent to those you met with during business meetings.

As with all deductible business expenses, you are also expected to keep receipts for travel and entertainment purchases. For meals, make sure that the receipt includes the exact cost of the meal as well as the name and location of the restaurant. Get in the habit of writing down who was present (names and business relationship) and what business was discussed.

For entertainment expenses, document: the amount of each separate expense; the date of the entertainment; the name, address, and type of entertainment; the business reason for the entertainment; and the name, title, and occupation of the people who you entertained.

Whenever business expenses are claimed it is a good idea to keep detailed records and receipts for everything. Business expenses can be charged to a practice credit card, receipts should be obtained from taxi drivers or other modes of transportation, and a detailed copy of the hotel bill should be kept. For the show, meeting or conference, a copy of all charges, as well as a copy of the convention schedule/agenda, can help prove it is relevant to your practice.

 

The safe way to go in all of this is to just diligently record all your business-related travel expenses in a log complete with dates, times, descriptions, locations and amounts. Include your travel expenses, lodging expenses and the costs of your meals. Also include taxis, fees, tips and any other incidental expenses.

No matter how you document your expenses, you are supposed to do it in a timely manner. You don’t need to record the details of every expense on the day you incur it. It is sufficient to record them on a weekly basis. However, if you’re prone to forget details, it’s best to get everything you need in writing within a day or two. Just make sure to keep all supporting paper documentation of the recorded expenses. This way, when you present.

Visiting Your Dream Destination While Winning the Audit: Here’s How You Do It

Taking a trip to the destination of your dreams sounds fun, but nothing is more fun that taking a trip while winning the resulting audit at the same time.

Yes, you read it right. Turning your vacation into an honest-to-goodness tax deduction is possible. In fact, you can travel throughout the Mediterranean with no or very little travel costs. The key is by making your trip either a passive or an active business trip. Remember that the only way you can reduce your transportation expenses is by making business the primary purpose of your trip.

As a business owner, you know that taking a vacation doesn’t come easy. Aside from the fact that you don’t have paid vacation leaves, you can’t just entrust your business to someone else while you’re away. However, your advantage is that when it comes to business, you are free to mix pleasure with business. If you do it right, you make it possible for you to enjoy a vacation while reducing your tax bill.

 Why Need to Make Your Trip a Business Trip

 If your purpose is to lower your travel expenses, making your vacation a business trip is a must. This is because it becomes a lot easier to deduct transportation expenses if the purpose of your trip is business.

You should also not forget to count up the number of days allotted for business and for personal activities in your planned trip. As a rule of thumb, make sure that majority of your travel days is spent on business activities. A weekend that is squeezed in between workdays can also be counted as business days. Hence, you can fly to Hawaii on a Thursday and meet a client the following day, stay there for the entire weekend, have meetings again on Monday and Tuesday, and fly back home the following day. That way, you’ve already had seven business days and you can enjoy Hawaii and still expense your transportation costs.

 How to Make Your Vacation Look like a Business Trip

 Now that you know that the key to reducing your travel tax is by writing it off as a business trip, the next thing you have to figure out is how to actually do that. Well, of course you cannot just take off for your dream destination with your business cards and pretend that you are going there for pure business.

Today, for your trip to be considered a business trip, you have to have a prior set business purpose. That is as per the requirements set by the IRS. Simply put, you need to schedule at least one business appointment before leaving for your trip. If you fail to do it, then you will never be able to expense your transportation costs.

There is nothing wrong with deducting part or your entire trip by deducting your travel costs as business expenses. In fact, this is the reason many professional groups host their annual conventions in popular tourist spots. Combining your vacation with business travel is not a bad idea at all, as long as you do it right.

 The IRS Rule on Travel Expenses and Deductions

 If you love the idea of traveling with minimal travel costs, it is necessary that you identify which among your travel expenses are tax-deductible and which are not. Once you have identified that, then you can finally let your tax savings pay for the deductible part of your trip.

Writing off some of your travel expenses may invite scrutiny, but don’t hesitate taking deductions if you think you are entitled to them. However, you have to be careful when it comes to this part and remember the IRS rule. You cannot simply claim that your trip is a business trip just because you have to visit an office somewhere. The IRS made it clear: “The scheduling of incidental business activities during a trip, such as viewing videotapes or attending lectures dealing with general subjects, will not change what is really a vacation into a business trip.”

Expenses that are Considered Deductible

 You know that in every trip, your transportation costs–taxi fare, airfare, airport parking, etc.)–make up a huge part of your travel expenses. If you are good and careful enough, you can fully offset such costs so long as you meet the criteria set by the IRS. Aside from your transportation costs though, there are other expenses that can be added up, too.

The IRS Pub 463 has laid out the details when it comes to these expenses, but just to give you an idea, here are some of the basic things that you should take note of:

  • For each day that is considered business day, you are allowed to deduct the entire cost for your lodging, car rentals and tips. That means that if your weeklong trip to Hawaii includes five days of business and two days for your personal getaway, then you can legally deduct your hotel bill for all those five business days.
  • For each day that is considered business day, you can deduct 50 percent of the total amount you spent for food.
  • You can also deduct other miscellaneous expenses that are “ordinary and necessary” to your travel, like dry cleaning and baggage fees.
  • The catch is, you cannot deduct the amount spend for your family, in case they joined you in your trip.

 Simple Steps to Follow When Writing Off a Trip

  1.  Choose any place in the U.S. where you want to go.
  2. Decide how you want to write off your trip–as an active or a passive trip.
  3. Find a conference, convention or any event in that destination that is related to your business or profession.
  4. Book the trip.

 Things to Remember if You Want to Write Off Your Trip

 You have to go a long way to be able to write off your trip. The IRS has existing rules stipulating which particular expenses can be written off and which cannot, so it takes a dose of wisdom to avail of tax deductions without a hitch.

  1.  S. Trip vs International Trip. Deductions for business trips within the U.S. differ from deductions for international trips. If your trip is pure business and is just within the U.S., then you can expect your transportation to be fully deducted both ways. However, if your business trip is out of the country, then it has to be at least 75 percent business to be written off your plane ticket. If you go less than 75 percent, then the amount to be deducted will be just the percentage related to business.
  1. The Importance of Traveling via a U.S.-registered cruise. In the event that you are in a business-related cruise, make sure that you are aboard a ship that is registered in the U.S. and not in any other country. However, the rule is that a business-related cruise in a U.S. ship entitles you to only a deduction of up to $2,000 a year, regardless of how long or how frequent your trip is. Also, this has to come with a detailed written statement with tax return.
  1. On Overstaying. If you stay in Hawaii for a full week but the days dedicated for business is just five days, that’s fine. You do not need to work all day and end your staycation as soon as your business is done. Remember that spending a few more days in your destination will not disqualify you for deductions, but you have to ensure that your primary purpose for that trip is business and everything is well-documented.
  1. Family’s Expenses. When it comes to the expenses incurred by your family throughout the trip, the story is different. Unless they are employees in your company too, any of your family members is not entitled to a deduction because you cannot deduct expenses for anyone who is not really part of the business trip.

If you want a way out of this rule, the trick you can do is to find a means through which you can overlap what you have to pay for yourself with what a family member can pay for himself. For example, when you drive him in your car, your deductible transportation also gets him to the destination since both of you are riding the same car. Same trick applies if you share a single hotel room. It is important to note, however, that the costs incurred for the added occupants, the need for a larger room, for instance, are not covered by the deductions.

 

  1.  Miscellaneous Fees. We’ve been talking here of transportation costs like airfare, hotel expenses and food. But how about other fees that you may incur in the course of your travel? Well, it is normal for any trip to rack up some incidental costs, including laundry charges, tips, taxi fares, internet access fees and phone calls. The rule for such fees is simple. If these expenses are related to your business trip in any way, then you are free to write them off. Otherwise, you pay for them.
  2. Meal Deductions. When you go on a business trip with your associates, you are entitled to a deduction of 50 cents per dollar, which means you get to eat out at only half of your total meal cost.
  3. Record-keeping. As previously mentioned, the key to getting as much deductions as possible for your trip is to be careful. Since many business organizations abuse this area of the law, it is highly likely for the IRS to interrogate you when it comes to your deductions. When that time comes, you have to be ready to justify everything. Make sure that you keep all the necessary records, which do not only include the receipts but everything that will prove that you were actually out there for a business trip. Hence, you have to be meticulous in keeping even your itineraries and agendas.
  4.  Extravagant Expenses. You don’t want to be called an abuser of the law, so be reasonable. While you are free to write off some of your expenses since it’s a business trip, the IRS has the power to foul on whatever expenses it may find too extravagant. As the law stipulates, your expenses must be reasonable based on facts and circumstances.

On Documenting Your Trip

 As previously mentioned, you have to document everything so you will have something to present in case the IRS asks you to prove that your trip was actually a business trip. This may sound a bit demanding, but if that’s too big a deal to you, here’s the deal: You don’t really need to keep a pocketful of receipts for expenses smaller than $75.

While the IRS does not require you to keep receipts for a travel expense that’s worth under that amount, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are already off the hook when it comes to record-keeping. Remember, your goal is to make as much expenses deductible as possible, so be responsible enough to document all your deductible expenses. That means if you stayed at a hotel that’s worth $75, you still ought to have a copy of its receipt so you can expense it.

Tax Strategy

 The only best way for you to avoid trouble when it comes to tax strategy is to be honest. Do not deduct expenses that you are not entitled to and keep all the necessary documents that you will eventually need to back up your claim for deductions. Remember that substantiating your claim is important because if you fail to document your expenses, you are entitled to serious penalties such as losing all the deductions altogether and having to pay additional tax on top of penalties and interest.

The bottom line here is that there are existing rules on travel deductions and you’re not supposed to push these rules. However, there is no reason that you cannot tack on some days of fun when you are out there for business.

Dining, Drinking, Merrymaking—Know When Your Entertainment Expenses are Deductible

Group Of Friends Enjoying Night Out At Rooftop Bar

Business isn’t always about the dull stuff. In fact entertainment is a part and parcel of most businesses, and the good news is that most entertainment expenses are actually deductible.

In every business, pleasing customers is a must. Especially if you are in sales or marketing, entertaining customers is an essential part of your job or business. Entertainment expenses are usually paired with meal expenses, and both of them are commonly considered legitimate business expenses.

While it is good to know that there’s a clear rule on entertainment deductions, the problem with many business owners is that they think that just about any theater pass, event or meal with a client or a potential client may already qualify as a valid deduction when in fact, it is not always the case.

But how will you know if your entertainment expenses count as business?

 When Do Entertainment Expenses Count as Pleasure or Business?

 Before we get down to the actual rules, let’s try to understand them the easy way. The rules involve figures and stipulations which may sound a bit off for you, but essentially, their bottom line is simply this: When it comes to entertainment expenses, it is usually not considered a deductible expense if you are having too much pleasure. Take a look these easy-to-understand rules:

  1. Make business your priority. Always get down to business. Remember that any form of entertainment that you do must in one way or another be related to the conduct of your business, or must at least be associated with a discussion pertaining to your business. Simply put, if we have a dinner together but don’t discuss business stuff such as sales projections or tax strategies, and instead talk about our children and family life, then you are not supposed to expect the amount we spend for our meal as deductible entertainment expense.

Same thing goes for throwing parties. You cannot simply rationalize that you throw a party to build camaraderie with your clients. For the party costs to be deductible, you should be able to conduct business at any time in the course of the party. It can either be before, after or during the party and may include product demonstration or a brief talk.

Aside from soirees, here are other forms of entertainment expenses that you should consider:

  • If you are a business owner, meals for your employees during a busy time are entirely deductible. It is better if you track such costs under a separate category such as “crew meals,” so your tax professional will not apply the 50% rule during tax time.
  • Do not deduct repeated meals with your business partner when you take turns in paying.
  • You can write off your hotel expenses when attending a trade show, but you cannot do it all year round and mark it as an entertainment expense again and again. So, do not try to write off the amount you spend for entertainment facilities, including property taxes, mortgage interest, swimming pool rentals, tennis courts or a vacation in a resort.
  • You also cannot write off dues that you pay to athletic clubs or hotel clubs, including those that offer free meals when you take part in business discussions.
  1. Make sure that the environment is conductive for the conduct of business. Before writing off your entertainment expenses after dining somewhere, you have to make sure that the environment is business-conducive enough to qualify for a deduction. There was an instance before when the IRS had to reject the deduction of passes to a baseball game because the noise at the ballpark obviously did not allow for a good business discussion.
  2.  Mind your guest list. In writing off your entertainment expenses, you must also take your guest list into consideration. If your event is organized for employees and their spouses or is open to the general public, you may write off its total cost. On the other hand, if the event is for your clients or potential clients, or those business associates or contractors who conduct business with you, then you are allowed to write off only 50% of the total cost. In case your guest list consists of employees and their spouses and some clients, then part of your entertainment cost may be allocated as a 100% write-off, while the remainder can be a 50% write-off based on the number of guests who attended in every category.
  3.  Do not be too lavish or extravagant. Going overboard is a big no-no for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you want to increases the chances of your entertainment expenses to be written off, always choose to keep your entertainment or meal simple by making sure that its cost is aligned with the budget of your company. That means that if your company is not that big to pay for lavish parties, then do not bring your clients to first-class accommodations or parties and expect the cost to be written off.
  4.  Document everything. If you want to win your fight against the IRS, then you have to build up your defenses. There are cases when people from the IRS would come knocking on doors to ask you to back up your claims for deductions. In the event that they come knocking onto your door, you have to make sure that you are prepared to defend your deductions. You do that by making sure that you keep every little piece of evidence that you can keep to support your deduction claims, such as the invitation that makes clear your business purpose, photos of your guests during a product presentation, or a video clip. You may also want your guests to sign a guest book so you can prove to the IRS the right allocation of your entertainment expenses between company employees, business associates, clients, etc. Most importantly, keep all your receipts. Based on the IRS rule, however, expenses that cost less than $75 do not necessarily require receipts. In such cases, a simple journal entry in your appointment book that includes the names of attendees, amount spent and location is enough.

So, when are entertainment expenses deductible?

Basically, entertainment expenses that can be written off are those used to entertain clients or potential clients, customers, business partners, employees, and if these expenses are proven to be–

  • “ordinary and necessary” and
  • either directly related or associated.

As per the IRS rules on entertainment expenses, it is a must that the expenses are ordinary and necessary before they can be written off. That means that they should be common, accepted and appropriate for the business. Entertainment expenses can be considered necessary even without being required. Also, they should be able to meet at least one of these tests:

  • Direct Test. This test involves proving or showing that there was a business purpose to the entertainment and that its main objective was to gain profit. You also must be able to show that it was held in a business setting and that it involved a discussion of the business. If for instance, you gathered your employees somewhere to present employee awards, the amount spent for that event can be considered as deductible expense. However, if you only went fishing with them and there was no clear connection between the activity and your business, that cannot be considered as deductible expense.
  • Associated Test. In this test, you must be able to show that the entertainment was tied to your business and happened directly before or after a business-related discussion. An example of this would be having a business discussion with your clients in the office and then inviting them to a game after your meeting. That will pass the associated test since it happened directly after the business discussion. However, if you took the clients days later, then that will not pass this test.

The following are examples of expenses that are not subject to the 50% limit, which means that they are fully deductible:

  • Those spent for events that promote goodwill to the community.
  • Those spent for events whose proceeds go straight to a charitable organization, provided that the charitable organization is IRS certified.
  • Those spent for meal or entertainment that is essential to the business.
  • Those spent for meals of employees at the convenience of the employer or for any occasional event.

Entertainment Expenses vs Advertising & Promotion Expenses

 In case the nature of your business involves entertaining the general public to advertise or promote, your entertainment cost can be entirely written off as a business expense. If you own a children’s clothing store and you hire a clown to entertain at a community event, that is considered more of a promotion than entertainment.

So how do you write off your entertainment expenses?

As mentioned, you should be able to pass either the direct or associated test and prove your business purpose before you can deduct your business entertainment expenses. Aside from the purpose of your business, you should also be able to prove the following:

  • The amount of each expense
  • The date/time and location of the entertainment, and
  • Your relationship with the persons you entertained (are they your employees, business associates, clients, etc.?)

What if you fail to present a proof?

In that case, the IRS will not be able to consider it as a deductible expense and take it off your tax return. This is where record keeping comes in.

Recordkeeping

 When it comes to business expenses, you should be meticulous enough to keep all the necessary records to prove that your entertainment expenses can pass either the direct test or the associated test. The IRS usually finds contemporaneous records best. These records should be able to specify the business purpose of the entertainment event. A simple note stating your purpose will suffice. For instance, you can note on the bill from your caterer that the amount paid was used for the annual holiday party of your company.

 How much of your entertainment expenses are deductible?

In most cases, only 50% of business-related entertainment expenses are deductible. Depending on whether the entertainment expenses are reimbursed, this 50% limit is applicable to employees or their employers, as well as to self-employed individuals or their clients. The limit particularly applies to the expenses you have while–

  • Traveling away from home for business.
  • Entertaining clients at a place conducive for business.
  • Attending a business conference or meeting.

If you attend an event not related to your business while traveling for business, the amount you spend for that entertainment will not be deductible. The same rule applies if you attend an entertainment event while looking for a possible business location or while investigating a business. The entertainment expense in that case is not deductible since you haven’t started the business yet.

Remember also that any lavish or extravagant entertainment in any form is not deductible. Say you want to entertain your clients by buying a yacht, the IRS will not allow you to write off the amount you spent for buying that yacht simply because that is too extravagant.

 What if you are self-employed and is therefore neither an employee nor an employer?

 Based on the IRS law, entertainment expenses of self-employed individuals are not subject to the 50% limit if all of the conditions below are met:

  • The entertainment expenses are tied to your job as an independent contractor
  • You are provided an allowance or are reimbursed for the entertainment expenses related to the work that you perform, and
  • You are able to show enough proof or records of such expenses for your client or customer.

In every business, treating clients or employees to a meal or entertainment is a great way to build your business, and since it is a legitimate part of the business, it is subject to tax deductions. Knowing which of your entertainment expenses are fully deductible, not deductible or subject to the 50% limit is a must if you don’t wish to deal with troubles with the IRS.

How to Effectively Manage Business Risks

Risks are normal in any business. Even the most successful businesses today had to deal with certain threats in the past that almost laid their success on the line. Sometimes, it is tempting to wish that your business no longer has to take any calculated risk and be as smooth sailing as possible, but that just cannot be.

In the real world, business is tantamount to risk-taking and you can’t just wish to keep risks at bay. Why? Because business does not work that way. Taking risks is necessary in any business for without it, growth is never possible. Remember, it is through risks that you get to meet new clients, discover new sectors and learn new things. Without risks, business loses its essence.

Risk Management

 People in the business sector are pretty familiar with the term risk management. By definition, risk refers to the probability of an event and its consequences. When you manage risks, you use certain methods, processes and tools to deal with these risks.

Running a business involves different types of risk, and while some risks can go only as far as causing serious but manageable damage to your business, there are risks that are beyond repair and have the potential to destroy your business. That is why businesses, no matter how big or small, need to be equipped with the right methods and tools to prepare for these risks before they strike. While preparing for risks does not guarantee 100% that your business will be free from risks, such preparations can moderate their impacts on your business.

Risk management involves determining what could go wrong with your business and evaluating which of the possible risks you should deal with. After doing so, you implement strategies that will help you manage those risks. Managing risks before they strike is the most cost-effective way of dealing with them.

Potential Business Risks

 Before you try to understand Risk Management as a process, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the different types of risk that businesses usually face.

  • Strategic Risks. Strategic risks are risks that have to do with how you operate in the industry where your business is in. These risks usually arise from changes in demand, mergers and acquisitions and other changes in the industry. For instance, a big U.S. company is acquiring your major Canadian competitor. If the acquisition activity happens, then your competitor will have the potential to have a distribution arm in the U.S. So, what should you do?

 Now that you know that this potential acquisition activity can pose a risk on your business, you have to prepare how you will respond once the risk is already at hand. As you do this, you may consider researching if there is any U.S. company that is big enough to do the acquisition and which among your Canadian competitors might be a target of this U.S. company.

  • Compliance Risks. As the name suggests, these risks have to do with your need to comply with certain regulations, as well as your need to act in such a way that your customers and potential investors will be pleased. To manage compliance risks, you must consider whether certain safety or health legislations can force charges in your business or increase your overheads.

When it comes to legislative risks, you may want to ask yourself if certain legislations, particularly tax laws, can make your products and services less marketable. For instance, some tobacco businesses were threatened when legislations pushing up the costs of tobacco products were passed. The significant increase in the cost of their products reduced their appeal and made it difficult for tobacco business owners to promote and sell their products.

  • Financial Risks. Financial risks are associated with the overall finances of your business, including your financial systems and the transactions that your business enters into. Some examples of financial risks are customers who did not pay you for your services, or the growing interest of your business loan. But how do you prevent such risks?

The first and most important thing you should do to prepare your business for financial risks is by regularly examining your financial operations, most especially your cash flow. Being too dependent on one customer is not good for your business, because if that customer fails to pay you, that could have some serious implications when it comes to the viability of your business. Aside from cash flow, some of the other things you should examine are the ones who owe you money, the way you extend credit to your customers, and the things you should do to recover your owed money.

  • Operational Risks. Operational risks are the risks that have to do with the operations and administrative procedures taken by your business, including recruitment of employees, supply chain, IT systems, accounting controls, regulations and the composition of your board.

As you run your business, it is necessary for you to examine each aspect of your operations and make provisions for every possible risk that may turn up. For instance, being too reliant on just one supplier may pose operational risks for your business. Imagine if your sole supplier goes out of business. Where does that leave you? You can minimize this risk by looking for some other suppliers that you can do business with and not depending too much on the one that you currently have.

One of the most common operational risks today has to do with information security. As a business, you keep track of necessary information. That is why part of your responsibilities as a business owner is ensuring that every bit of information is protected from hackers who may break into your IT system and steal valuable data from you. Many business owners have experienced losing large sums of money from their accounts to hackers due to poorly secured IT systems.

Aspects of the Risk Management Process

 The process of managing risks is one of the most crucial parts of any business. It is often considered an indispensable part of strategic management because it helps you identify the risks confronting your business and address them. By doing so, you are able to increase the likelihood of your business’ success.

The risk management process basically involves micro processes, such as systematically identifying the risks facing your business, evaluating the possibility of the occurrence of an event, understanding how you should respond to these events, setting up systems to tackle the consequences of these events, and monitoring how effective or ineffective your risk management processes are.

 How Risk Management Benefits Your Business

 While risk management does not totally guarantee the success of your business, it makes the risks manageable enough. Among the common results of the risk management process are the following:

  • It allows you to allocate your resources more efficiently
  • It allows you to project or expect what may go wrong with your business, hence minimizing the impact of risks and preventing considerable financial loss
  • It helps improve your planning and decision-making
  • It increases the chances that you will be able to conduct your business according to your business plan and budget

 If you are the type of business owner who always loves to try something new, knowing how to manage risks efficiently can benefit your business a lot. For instance, you plan on launching a new product. Two of the risks that you should consider in this case are the competitors that follow you in the market and the existing technologies that can possibly make your new product redundant.

Evaluating Risks

Part of the risk management process is risk evaluation. This technique particularly lets you identify the significance of potential risks to your business and decide whether you are going to accept these risks or prevent them. But how do you evaluate these risks?

Evaluating risks basically involves identifying them and ranking them afterwards. You can do this by determining the consequence and probability of each risk, such as asking yourself if their consequences and probabilities are low, medium or high. Businesses that efficiently assess their risks can attest to the advantages of this practice.

It helps to include a risk evaluation in your business plan, in which you determine the risks that can impact your objectives and assess them in the light of costs, concerns of investors and even legal requirements. In cases when the cost of preventing a potential risk is too high, not preventing the risk at all makes more sense. So, it is important that you assess these risks and weigh which will cost you more—preventing them or mitigating them once they’re already at hand?

In evaluating potential risks and assessing them based on cost, concerns and legal requirements, it is best to plot a risk map and include there the likelihood of the risk’s occurrence. In this risk map, you rate each risk on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning that the risk is of major concern to your business. You can also include in the risk map the probability scale of each risk, which you do by assessing if the risk:

  1. Is very likely to occur
  2. Has some chance of occurrence
  3. Has small chance of occurrence, or
  4. Is not likely to occur

By plotting this map, you are easily able to visualize all the possible risks in relation to each other and see the extent of damage they can do to your business.

 Four Ways to Deal with Risks

 Since risks are normal in every business, they are not supposed to make you nervous. As a business owner, you have all the freedom to plan around these risks, limit their impacts and prevent the worst from happening. You only have four options when dealing with risks—mitigate it, avoid it, transfer it, or accept it.

  • Mitigating the Risk. To mitigate a potential risk, you should come up with contingency plans before the risky situation arrives. So, when it’s already there, you can easily carry out your Plan B. For example, you have an upcoming promotional event for your new product and you expect several investors to attend. Since the event is set in an open area, the risk is that it might rain. Rain can be considered a risk since that may affect the number of people to attend the event. To mitigate the risk, you may consider renting a large tent to shelter your guests or giving out free umbrellas to them.
  • Avoiding the Risk. There are certain instances when you find the risk consequences to be too high. In such cases, it is best for you to cancel that high-risk initiative altogether. One example would be a product launch that could exhaust all of your company’s finances. Instead of letting this new product cripple your business financially, cancel the launch and avoid the risk of being broke.
  • Transferring the Risk. This strategy is very common in insurances. Since it involves passing the risk on to someone else, it mainly applies to risks and situations that you can put in black and white, such as in contracts. A good example is insuring yourself against the risk of a car accident. In this case, your insurer will carry the financial risk in case you get caught in such an accident.
  • Accepting the Risk. In managing risks, remember that you always have the choice of doing nothing. However, you have to make every conscious effort possible to understand the risk and to decide whether it is fine to accept it. If you think the risk is insignificant and won’t have any impact on your business, then you can choose to take no action at all.

When you manage potential risks to your business, you can take advantage of any of these four strategies independently or in combination. Just like in any endeavor, business requires careful planning. Even if you think that a risk is not likely to happen, it is still best to prepare yourself for it.

Employment Matters: The Difference Between Contractors and Employees

When there’s extra work that needs to get done and there are no sufficient employees to do the job, companies usually hire more workers to keep up with the customer rush. If you happen to find a job in a company, make it a point that you understand your status in that company. That way, you will know how you are supposed to be treated by your new employer.

More often than not, problems arise because independent contractors think of themselves as employees, and vice-versa. For some, knowing whether they are contractors or employees doesn’t matter because all that matters to them is that they got a job and an income. However, they don’t realize that not knowing which classification they belong to—independent contractor or employee—will put them at the risk of tax troubles in the future.

But how does the law classify contractors vs. employees?

Telling Between Contractors and Employees

On the surface, you probably cannot tell what sets contractors apart from employees because most of the time, they do the same work. However, the law views them differently. The law also views the companies that hire them just as differently.

Basically, the thing that makes contractors different from employees is their degree of independence and control over the work that’s assigned to them. Usually, while an employee performs tasks that are dictated by others and are provided trainings to effectively do the job, an independent contractor has more than one client and sets his own hours at work. A contractor typically does not have a boss and he uses his own tools in performing his job. Also, his salary doesn’t automatically come at a definite date because he invoices for each of his completed assignments.

While that seems pretty much understandable, there can sometimes be gray areas, too.

In many cases, companies prefer hiring contractors instead of employees so they can save on labor costs. Financial-wise, hiring contractors makes more sense because contractors are not entitled to benefits. Also, companies save considerably on taxes since in hiring contractors, it no longer becomes necessary for the employer to pay portion of the state unemployment taxes.

Companies that follow the law and take the employee route usually regret their decisions at some point in the future because of the cost that making someone an employee entails. That explains why small businesses that operate on tighter margins are often tempted to hire contractors instead of employees, even when the job that needs to get done calls for an employee.

To minimize their costs, business owners make people believe that it is more advantageous to be a contractor than an employee since contractors’ take-home pays are bigger. While that may be true on the surface, that is not as simple as it seems.

The Tax Implications of Contractual Work 

If you are an employee, your employer is the one that pays half of your Social Security and Medicare taxes and withholds half of these taxes from your salary. That and the withholding of your federal and state income taxes are the reasons why those employees who work at $9 per hour at fast-food restaurants take home less every payday.

So, does that prove that being a contractor is better than being an employee?

The answer is not necessarily. Why? Because independent contractors pay 100% of all their Social Security and Medicare taxes when they file their tax returns, and pay all the income taxes that were not withheld. And if you are a contractor and you failed to make estimated tax payments every quarter to cover your taxes, prepare yourself for an unfortunate surprise come April. This only goes to show how tax responsibilities affect the amount that employees take home during payday versus the amount taken home by contractors.

Contractors Escaping Taxes

 Sounds common, doesn’t it? Many contractors believe that one of the advantages of being an independent contractor is that they get to escape taxes. Actually, they don’t. Well, that’s always possible. But that is not legal.

If you are a contractor and are paid in cash, don’t think that that already lets you get out of paying taxes and not report it. Whether your pay comes in the form of a check, cash, digital transfer or barter, and regardless of its amount, remember that every pay you get for each work that you do is taxable income.

Many contractors get all the more confused about taxable contract income because of the amounts that the IRS uses to require reporting of earnings. Remember that when you are a contractor, you get Form 1099-MISC to lay down the details of how much you have made for each job. Form 1099-MISC is what you need, not a W-2. However, as a contractor, an employer does not need to send you a form 1099 if your earnings during the tax year in question is less than $600.

The law can’t stress enough that the abovementioned rule is just a reporting requirement and has nothing to do with your taxable income. However much you earn, your earnings are always legally taxable and should be reported either on Schedule C or as other income on Form 1040.

For your FICA taxes, which refer to your Social Security and Medicare taxes, these taxes are self-employment taxes which you are responsible for in full. If you are an independent contractor, you should report the amount of your FICA taxes and pay them via Schedule SE.

While being an independent contractor has its share of advantages when it comes to taxes, there are instances when a business hires a contractor who is eventually deemed as an employee. In such cases, both parties lose significant amount of taxes, interests, penalties and premiums.

Since the relationship between a company and a worker sometimes tends to be a gray area, it is imperative that you protect your status as an independent contractor. Well, that is if you are really an independent contractor. To make sure that your work as a contractor remains independent of your employer, it should be able to pass the Four Point Test.

Determining Your Status

 If one asks you now whether you are a contractor or an employee and what makes you think so, do you know how to answer?

In Canada, a four-point test helps workers to determine their relationship with the business that you are working for. The agency clearly sets out a method that lets tax payers and workers identify the nature of their relationship with their companies.

The four-point test makes clear-cut distinctions between contractors and employees based on their control, tool ownership, risk of loss and integration.

  • Here, the issue is who controls the worker. If the employer has all the right to hire or fire you, determine your salary, decide on the time and place of your work as well as the manner in which you should perform your work, then you are an employee. Even if the employer does not directly control how you do your job, if he still has the right to do so, then an employer-employee relationship exists between the two of you.

 On the other hand, if you are a contractor, it is not necessarily the employer that runs the ship. As a contractor, you decide how you are going to perform your job and you maintain your right to decide where and when you are going to get the work done. In short, you are the only person responsible for planning the job that you need to get done.

  • Ownership of Tools. When it comes to tool ownership, the common notion is that what sets contractors apart from employees is that contractors supply their own tools. While that may be true, the problem is that it is also customary for other employees to provide tools for themselves so they can perform their jobs, such as in the case of garage mechanics and painters.

If that is the case, then how does tool ownership differentiate a contractor from an employee? According to CRA, the cost of using the tools is a better indication of whether you are a contractor or an employee. As per the CRA rule, you are considered an independent contractor if you purchase or rent large tools that call for major investment and expensive maintenance. Otherwise, you are an employee. Another good example of a self-employed, independent contractor is a home-based IT worker who uses his own computer to perform his job.

  • Chance of Profit/Risk of Loss. Here, determining which type of relationship exists between the business and the worker heavily depends on the financial involvement of the latter. Take a look at these questions:
  •  Do you have a chance of gaining profit?
  • Are you at risk of incurring losses due to damage to materials, delays or bad debts?
  • Do you cover the operating costs?

If your answer to all of these three questions is a Yes, then you are considered an independent contractor.

  • This criterion seems to be an attempt to presume the intention of the involved parties. According to CRA, a business relationship exists if the worker integrates the payer’s activities to his own commercial activities. On the other hand, an employer-employee relationship exists if the worker integrates his activities to the commercial activities of the payer.

The CRA does not lay out how to determine such integrations. However, an obvious way of proving that you integrate your own commercial activities is by having multiple clients. If you have only one client, it becomes easy for others to presume that you share an employer-employee relationship with that client. But be careful when having a single client, because that puts you at risk of being declared as a personal services corporation by the CRA.

Deciding Whether to Become an Employee or a Contractor

 Based on the facts discussed, it looks like being a contractor can be beneficial for you in terms of earnings and taxes, so long as you are prepared. However, remember that being an employee or a contractor is not really one of those decisions that you make when you look for a job. In reality, it is the business or company that decides whether you are a contractor or an employee.

Most of the time, employees are carried on the books, unlike contractors. So as a contractor, it is your responsibility to enshrine your relationship with the company you are working for through a contract. This contract should focus on the first three points of the four-point test and set out the intentions of both parties. Since you are an independent contractor, you have to make sure that such a written agreement is carefully crafted so your status is protected in case the other party subsequently changes his mind and argues that your relationship is not what you think it is.

At the end of the day, it is the business’ responsibility to weigh certain factors to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. While other factors may indicate that one is an employee, other factors may indicate that he is an independent contractor. Apparently, there is no magic that stands alone in determining one’s status, but the key to making the right determination is by looking at the entire relationship that the person has with the company he is working for.

In a nutshell, what makes a worker an independent contractor is his being his own boss, although his work should still stay within the definitions of a contract with the party he is working for. Also, he is not eligible for benefits provided by the employer and retains a certain degree of independence and control. On the other hand, a worker is an employee if he treats the business as his stable source of income, is eligible to benefits and pensions, and gives up elements of control to his employer. He should also be working within the time and place specified by the employer.

What is Incorporation and How Does It Work?

One of the first decisions you have to make in creating an incorporation is the type of business you want to create. A sole proprietorship? A corporation? A limited liability company? This decision is important because the type of business you create determines the types of applications you will need to submit. You should also research liability implications for personal investments you make into your business, as well as the taxes you will need to pay. It is important to understand each business type and select the one that is best suited for your situation and objectives. Keep in mind that you may need to contact several federal agencies, as well as your state business entity registration office.

The first step in understanding how businesses can be set up comes with knowing that, even though they may all seem similar from the outside, not all businesses are structured identically. Even within the same industry, some owners might opt for one setup while another owner will decide that a different type of arrangement is more suitable. It all depends on the individual needs, preferences, and requirements of the potential business and the business owner. This article will give you a glimpse of how an Incorporation works and how a business owner can use this model to further his or her ventures.

How does Incorporation Work?

A business becomes incorporated when the company’s organizers file incorporation paperwork with the state. For example, corporations in Texas must file a certificate of formation with the Texas Secretary of State’s office, as a condition of its formation. Incorporating a business requires activities, such as selecting individuals to serve as directors, and creating a unique business name. In most cases, a fill-in the blank certificate of formation, also known as articles of incorporation, will be provided by the Secretary of State’s office where the corporation is organized. The fee to file a certificate of formation will vary from state to state.

When a business becomes incorporated, a separate and distinct legal entity is created. An incorporated business acts independently of its business owners. According to the Entrepreneur website, incorporating a business provides the company with most of the legal rights granted to an individual, with the exception of voting privileges. Incorporated businesses must hold shareholder and director meetings, and keep company minutes, as described on the Companies Incorporated website. In addition, corporations must keep accurate banking records that are separate from the personal funds of its owners. Furthermore, an incorporated business must file taxes and annual reports with the state where the company is organized. This new business entity – corporation or limited liability company (LLC) – transforms the way the business is seen through the eyes of the law and often has more credibility with potential customers, vendors, and employees.

When it comes to business taxes, owners of an incorporated business may pay taxes twice on the same corporate dollars, also known as double taxation. This occurs when the company pays business taxes on its earnings. If dividends are issued to shareholders of the corporation, the shareholder pays taxes on those dividends at their individual tax bracket. Dividends issued to shareholders of a corporation aren’t deductible and don’t reduce the corporation’s tax liability. Lastly, for company Stocks, unlike a sole proprietorship or a partnership, an incorporated business has the ability to issue stock to employees and investors. Corporations with unissued shares of stock can sell shares to raise money for the company. Because an incorporated business has limited liability protection, investors may be more likely to invest in a corporation in comparison to a sole proprietorship or partnership. Employee stock incentives may be used to attract talented individuals to work for the corporation.

In any case that the venture hits some financial hurdles, corporations normally file one of two different types of bankruptcy – Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. Alternatively, corporate creditors may force a corporation into bankruptcy. When a corporation enters Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court appoints a trustee to oversee the liquidation of corporate assets. Assets are then distributed to external creditors according to their priority and the amount that they are owed. Shareholders are the lowest priority unless, for example, the corporation borrowed money from a shareholder. Unlike an individual debtor, the corporation receives no discharge of debt – it simply dissolves and ceases to exist after its assets are liquidated and distributed. On the other hand, when a corporation enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy, corporate representatives negotiate with a creditor’s committee for favorable payment terms, reduced interest rates and, sometimes, a reduction in the principal balance of its debts. The corporation must usually pay its outstanding debts within five years. Both the creditors and the corporation may submit payment plans to the bankruptcy court, but the court must approve it. Once the corporation complies with the settlement, it receives a discharge of any remaining debt.

The Incorporation Doctrine

The incorporation doctrine is a constitutional doctrine through which selected provisions of the Bill of Rights are made applicable to the states through the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Legal Information Institute explains. This means that state governments are held to the same standards as the Federal Government regarding certain constitutional rights. The Supreme Court could have used the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to apply the Bill of Rights to the states. However, in the Slaughter-House Cases 83 US 36, the Supreme Court held that the Privileges and Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment placed no restriction on the police powers of the state and it was intended to apply only to privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States and not the privileges and immunities of citizens of the individual states. This decision effectively put state laws beyond the review of the Supreme Court. To circumvent this, the Supreme Court began a process dubbed as “selective incorporation” by gradually applying selected provisions of the Bill of Rights to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process clause.

Selective and Offshore Incorporation

To give you a breakdown on what “selective incorporation,” it is a constitutional doctrine that ensures states cannot enact laws that take away the constitutional rights of American citizens that are enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Selective incorporation is not a law but has been established over time through court cases and rulings by the United States Supreme Court. In actuality, selective incorporation is the process that has evolved over the years, through court cases and rulings, used by the United States Supreme Court to ensure that the rights of the people are not violated by state laws or procedures. Moreover, according to Law Teacher, it does not consider all rights in the Bill of Rights fundamental not all rights in the Bill of Rights and some rights outside the Bill of Rights are fundamental. This approach rejects the totality of circumstances to decide whether phases of rights or particular portions of Instead if a right was fundamental, drafters incorporated it into the Fourteenth Amendment through the Due Process Clause and deemed applicable to the states and the federal government. At its heart, selective incorporation is about the ability of the federal government to limit the states’ lawmaking powers.

Meanwhile, Offshore incorporation is a corporation or limited liability company that has been formed outside of your country of residence. One is well advised to choose the country of incorporation wisely. The great thing, however, about having an offshore corporation company that has been established properly is that it will give you, the owner financial confidentiality. If one has an offshore bank account in one’s own name, the name of the account holder is easy to trace. Many people who have an offshore corporation have several companies. Having more than one offshore company allows funds to be transferred between companies that are free from government reporting. There is usually a significant reduction in paperwork because there may be no requirements by the government to report transfers of money between one foreign account and another.

Filing Articles of Incorporation

Starting your own business is a big step, and the legal issues involved can be confusing.  Thinking of a business idea is hard enough, but then there are forms to fill out and technicalities to deal with, especially if you’re structuring your company as a corporation. Here’s what you need to know about one of the first and most important steps of incorporating your business: filing your articles of incorporation.

The articles of incorporation sometimes called a certification of formation or a charter, is a set of documents filed with a government body to legally document the creation of a corporation. This type of document contains general information about the corporation, such as the business’s name and location.

Articles of incorporation can easily be confused with bylaws, which lay out the rules and regulations that govern a corporation and help establish the roles and duties of the company’s directors and officers. Articles of incorporation are also sometimes called a certification of formation or a charter. The articles of incorporation contain general information about a corporation, such as the name and location of the business. Bylaws, on the other hand, contain information about the rules and regulations that govern a corporation. In addition, corporate bylaws help to establish the roles and duties of the company’s directors and officers.

 Forms and Legal Documents

 The first step in the process is structuring a business as a corporation. The specific documents vary by state, but each will include a number of questions about the business and its owners. The forms are easily found online but don’t be alarmed if they are called something other than articles of incorporation.

Despite a state-by-state filing, the forms will all ask pretty much the same questions and will be in a fill-in-the-blank format. The most crucial information that is required will be corporate name, recipient of all legal notices and official mailings, the purpose of the business, the duration of the business, the incorporator, the directors, how many shares of stock can be issued, and how many classes of stock the corporation will be allowed to issue.

Articles of incorporation must be submitted to the secretary or department of state in order to establish a company as a corporate entity. Depending on the state of incorporation, articles of incorporation may be submitted in person to the secretary or department of state’s office, by mail or electronically to the secretary or department of state website. A corporation is not required to file the company’s bylaws with any government agency. Instead, corporations are required to maintain their bylaws at the company’s primary business location. Corporate bylaws are an internal document, establishing operating procedures for a corporation.

Legally, the answer is no. In fact, over 70 percent of U.S. businesses are owned by sole proprietors and operate successfully without incorporating. However, if you need liability protection to protect personal assets if a client sues you, potential tax savings (at a price), or a loan to grow your business in the future, then incorporation might benefit you.

Typically, if you only operate in one state, you should incorporate in that state. If you operate in multiple states, you should determine which state is the friendliest to corporations and incorporate in that state.  File your articles of incorporation in the state where you intend to incorporate – usually with the Secretary of State’s office and for a fee, depending on where you live. Check your state website for more information.

The primary benefit to business incorporation is limited liability. When you own a small business, you will invest a lot of money into not only getting it launched but in keeping it running smoothly as well. As the owner, you are responsible for any debts and losses your business may accumulate along the way. However, when you incorporate, you are typically only held responsible for the amount of money you personally invest. Your personal assets typically cannot be used to satisfy the debts and liabilities of your business.