Welcome back to our series on how to start a small business in O’Fallon.
This week, we're offering tips and resources for handling your taxes as a small business owner. Last week’s experts, Richard Shoaf and Chris Coleman, are back with more tips for potential small business owners.
Advice from the Experts
Shoaf said his number one piece of advice for small business owners is to find and hold on to a good tax professional.
“We always document everything, limit our tax liability within what the law allows and never take any questionable deductions,” Shoaf said of his own businesses. “Be cautious of unique directives on certain classes of businesses.”
He said that most of a new business owner’s tax questions have probably already been asked and answered in formal letters and responses.
For example, when Shoaf wanted to know if he should charge sales tax on photography for his company, he found that the question was answered in detail.
“We researched it and found that ‘LR3714’ Photography Services, Photographs and Labor (dated April 4th, 2007) answers the question," he said. "This helped us at Richard Shoaf Photography to charge the appropriate taxes on our products and not over charge our clients.”
Coleman said he has his CPA handle all of his business taxes, and he recommends the same for his clients.
“The tax laws change from year to year,” he said. “It is virtually impossible to run a business and stay up to date on all the changes.”
He added that delegating tax filing to an experienced CPA is almost essential to significantly grow a business year after year.
“My CPA keeps me in the loop on all the advantages I have or deductions I can take,” Coleman said.
Small Business Taxes Fast Facts
- Depending on the type of business you are opening, there could be special tax information to consider. The Small Business Association (SBA) has outlined the types of businesses that are affected and what’s special about their tax situations.
- You will need a tax identification number unless you’re a sole proprietor and not paying any employees—and depending on your business structure, you might need one even as a sole proprietor. To learn more about tax ID numbers and to find out whether you need one, visit the IRS’ page on Employer ID Numbers. The good news? You can apply for yours online.
- There are various types of taxes that might apply to your business, including self-employment taxes, self-employed individuals and independent contractors taxes and more. Find out more at the SBA’s Employment Taxes for Employers and Self Employed Individuals guide.
- There are a number of different forms you might need to file based on your business structure and several different ways to file. There are several resources for filing and paying taxes available from the SBA.
- Even if you don’t have employees, you are required to pay taxes as you earn money during the year. In the case of a small business owner, this means paying estimated taxes in advance. Learn how to do it and find out more information at the IRS website.
- Be sure to take advantage of tax breaks for small businesses.
Still confused? Don’t worry. You can take a free virtual workshop on the IRS website called Small Business/Self-Employed Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop. Find more resources for tax help at the SBA’s blog.
City of O’Fallon Tax Information
The city’s finance department offers a breakdown of real and personal property taxes for the city itself, as well as all potential taxing jurisdictions on its website.
Avoid Common Mistakes
New small business owners often make similar mistakes when dealing with their taxes. You can avoid them with a little preparation.
- Save all receipts, even those for less than $75, if you’re planning to claim the expenses as tax deductions. Even though the IRS doesn’t require an actual receipt for expenses under $75, if you’re audited, you’ll need to provide some sort of record.
- Keep expenses for supplies separate from equipment costs. Though there are special rules that might allow you to write off capital expenditures for your personal property, including things such as office furniture, fax machines and computers, you will need to use a special method of expensing the costs. If you don’t report the expenses properly, the IRS might decide that you didn’t characterize the deduction properly and rule that you’re not entitled to it. You might also be required to add the cost of the property to your overall business investment.
- Keep careful records of all reimbursable expenses, even when you pay for them out personally. They can still be used as deductions on your business taxes.
- Know how to calculate automobile deductions—it’s a detailed concept. Learn more at TaxAlmanac.com.
- Be careful with business gifts and deductions. The IRS only allows you to deduct up to $25 in gifts each year for any given individual. You are welcome to give more expensive gifts, but only the first $25 each year per individual is actually deductible.
- Check out the SBA’s guide for small business expenses and tax deductions for more information.
In Case You Missed It
In case you’ve missed previous editions of our small business series, we have shared ideas for choosing a business concept, including the development of unique business ideas and tips and suggestions for franchise opportunities.
We’ve also discussed how to write business plans, given tips and ideas on ways to find free and low-cost business training opportunities and offered expert advice on ownership options and legal structures for small businesses. We offered information and resources on how to find a business location in O'Fallon and last week, we covered the licenses and permits you’ll need to do business in town.
About the Experts
St. Charles County entrepreneur and business consultant Richard Shoaf owns several locally-based businesses, including Compass Consultants and STCI.
Chris Coleman owns St. Louis-based FranNet, a company that helps would-be business owners choose and develop franchise businesses. FranNet's clients include several O’Fallon area business owners, Coleman said.
Have you always dreamed of starting your own business? Subscribe to our daily newsletter so you won’t miss a single part of this ongoing series! Next week, we’ll offer tips and resources for handling your taxes as a small business owner.
Do you own your own business in O’Fallon? We want to share your story with the community! Contact Patch reporter Angela Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an interview.