If the only purpose of the tax system is to raise the government’s revenue, it could have been simpler. Unfortunately, its goals include ensuring efficiency, fairness and enforceability, influencing social policy and delivering benefits for certain industries, so simplicity in taxes seems out of the question.
While the current tax system is already too complicated, it gets even more complex year after year. Oftentimes, tax simplicity contradicts certain policy goals. While most people think that taxes should be equally conductive, fair, enforceable and simple, it is a fact that even those people who agree on these goals also disagree when it comes to their relative importance. Consequently, policies serve to balance the competing goals and simplicity ends up being least prioritized.
If you own a small business and are unfortunately not a tax expert, you may find it hard to deal with your business taxes. Because of the complexity of the tax system, it is very common for business owners to spend their tax time in panic and stress as they scramble to get their documents together in hopes of meeting deadlines and avoiding penalties.
Business owners often experience tax woes since they are supposed to treat business taxes as a process that needs careful attention throughout the year. The complexity of the tax system makes business tax preparation just as difficult that business owners sometimes feel like preparing for the tax season is an all-year burden that they have to carry.
Business taxes may be a bit complicated, but the good news is that there are ways through which you can simplify them. But before you know how to simplify business tax, it is better to understand first what business taxes are all about.
Business taxes have five general types, and the type you pay depends on the form of business that you operate. The give general types of business taxes are:
- Income Tax. Except partnerships, all types of business are required to file an annual income tax return. The form that you use in filing depends on the organization of your business or your business structure. This type of tax is a pay-as-you-go tax, which means that you pay it as you earn or receive your income. Usually, this is withheld from your pay. Otherwise, you might be required to pay estimated tax.
- Estimated Tax. It is by making regular payments of this type of tax during the year that you pay your taxes on income, including your self-employment tax.
- Self-Employment Tax. This business tax is primarily for those who work for themselves. Whatever self-employment tax you pay contributes to your social security system coverage, which is responsible for providing you with disability benefits, retirement benefits, survivor benefits and hospital insurance benefits. The law requires you to pay your SE tax if you meet any of the following requirements: (1) your net earnings from being self-employed were $400 or more; (2) you work for a church or any organization controlled by a church which elected an exemption from the FICA taxes.
- Employment Tax. You should pay your employment tax if you have employees whose social security and Medicare taxes, as well as federal income tax withholding and federal unemployment (FUTA) tax you are responsible to file.
- Excise Tax. You need to pay your excise tax if you do manufacture or sell products, operate different businesses, use various kinds of facilities, products or equipment, or receive payment for certain services. This tax has several tax programs, and one of the major components of these programs is motor fuel.
Now that you know the different business taxes that you need to pay, and considering how complicated filing and paying them are, it is time to understand how to simplify your business taxes.
Preparing for the Tax Season
The key to simplifying your business taxes is to treat them as something that requires your attention throughout the entire tax year. As you begin to see it that way, preparing for tax time won’t be as burdensome for you anymore and it will no longer have to take your time away from your business.
Business taxes are manageable if you know how to prepare them right. Basically, you will need a reliable technology to help you automate your finances. Other things that you need will be—
Establish better habits for next year and beyond. After completing your taxes for the current year, commit to establish better habits for the following years. You may have promised yourself to do the same last tax year and in the years prior, but this time, make sure that you will stand by your commitment to do better.
Your business finances need your attention as much as your family finances do. If you are not the type of business owner who keeps track of your business income and expenses, then you are one of those business owners who see tax time as a nightmare.
- Track your Business Income and Expenses. To save yourself the trouble, make it a habit to track your income and expenses all the time. That may sound a bit demanding, but it definitely works. To keep track of your finances as they happen, use a spreadsheet or a software program. Reconstructing all your income and expenses for months at once will not only lead to an erratic report but will also leave you drained.
Another advantage of keeping track of your income and expenses in a simple spreadsheet is that you get to see the profit you make and all the numbers you need for tax time.
- Set Aside Money for Taxes. One of the easiest ways to avoid getting hit with a surprisingly hefty tax bill is to make it a habit to allot money for your business taxes each month. For most businesses, that is equivalent to 30% of your total income. If you set aside this percentage, you will be better off than business owners who don’t set aside anything for tax time.
If you make a conscious decision now to set aside money for your taxes, you don’t only get to avoid considerable penalties but also ease the burden of having to pay a huge sum when the due date for filing taxes comes. That may seem difficult to do at first, but it positively forces you to not procrastinate your taxes until the crazy tax time arrives.
Record everything electronically. Most business owners keep piles of receipts and other important documents in a box, particularly a shoebox. Such a practice is highly inefficient because when the receipts pile up, everything becomes a mess and things become even more stressful for you since you will end up not even knowing what’s in that box. Why don’t you ditch it and start learning how to record everything electronically? That way, you can be sure that your archive is automatically ready when the filing time next year comes.
It is also best to set aside one time to sort out your records. If you plan to do this once a month, a good date would be the time you get your monthly statement for your business checking account. Come up with a checklist that includes your bank account reconciliation and look through all of your transactions to make sure that you don’t commit errors.
Back up your records. Have you ever thought of what may happen to all your data in case a huge disaster hits your place? That is why it is important that you back up all your files and records regularly to a remote location, such as in the cloud. You may also do the backing up on-site, but make sure that you store away all valuable business information from the office. Remember that the law does not find lost records as an excuse when the auditing time comes.
Find a good accountant/ tax advisor. If you think you can’t handle all the paperwork by yourself, you can get an accountant. Accountants are trusted advisors that you can rely on throughout the year. They can help you plan and prepare for the tax season.
If you have just started your business, it is better if you talk to a tax advisor as soon as now. You can explain the basics of your business to your accountant and tax advisor so he can clue you in on the tax deductions you are entitled to. You may not appreciate having a tax advisor by your side straightaway, but when the demands of tax time get more complicated, you will. Since they are savvy about business taxes, they can help you go about every stage of the process.
In the months leading up to tax time, accountants and tax advisors are business owners’ best friends. Ahead of this dreaded season, request from them a tax preparation document to ensure that you have enough time to prepare and that you get all the deductions and breaks you are entitled to.
Use online banking. In most cases, banks allow their clients to download all of their transactions. To help you prepare for the tax season, you can visit the bank every month to mark all your tax-deductible transactions. That way, you can prepare a comprehensive list of all your tax deductible items before the tax season comes.
As you prepare for the tax season, it also helps to use reminders and alerts. You may consider having a specific calendar that’s especially dedicated to your business finances. There, you can set up all your financial reminders for all the payments, transfers and other transactions that you need to perform. This way, you don’t let your financial tasks get lost in the rush of your daily business reminders. It is also advisable that you put alerts on your business checking account so the calendar can alert you when your balance gets too low, or when a new transaction is made.
Automate accounting process. If you own a business, considering an accounting solution is a big help to your tax woes. Finding an accounting solution will help you drive accuracy and efficiency throughout the year and ease your burden during tax time. When you use online accounting for your finances, you don’t only get the latest version of the accounting tool but you also remove the need to invest a large sum of money upfront.
If you own a small business, you can easily pull the transactions you had from your business bank accounts and automatically update them. That way, you can come up with customized financial reports and view your balances more straightforwardly, especially if you use a software that features customizable reports. This is a big time-saver, you’ll see.
Another benefit of automating your accounting process is that you get to plan ahead for your important deadlines. Most accounting software today don’t only keep track of your income and expenses but also have alert features to ensure that you are up-to-date with your business finances and deadlines.
File online. Filing your taxes online is not only faster for you but also ensures that it your filing is less prone to errors. In most cases, tax agencies also require online than manual filing.
When you start having your business financial tracking set in place, you will discover that it actually takes so little time to accomplish your financial review and just a bit of effort to get rid of tax woes that are usually experienced by delinquent business owners. The business tax system is complicated, yes, but there is always something you can do to streamline the process.
If you have just started out your business, it’s normal if your expenses outweigh your income. Setting up a system to track your finances may seem unnecessary at this point, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of waiting until all your financial records have already piled up. Simplifying your business tax is a result of easy habits that you need to learn from the beginning. Try it. When the tax time comes around, you’ll be grateful you’re prepared.