For many small business owners, thinking about taxes occurs only twice a year … when returns are being prepared and perhaps at the end of the year. This is a mistake. With half of 2017 over, now is a great time to assess where you stand and to take action that will be helpful to your 2017 tax bill.
1. Meet with your tax advisor
The vast majority of small business owners use CPAs or other tax advisors to prepare and file their returns. These tax pros can also serve as business advisors throughout the year, providing guidance on what the business can to do to optimize profitability while minimizing taxes. If your tax preparer doesn’t provide this service, consider finding one who will. Schedule a meeting with your advisor to review your profits or losses, and to craft a tax plan that you can implement going forward.
2. Assess your profitability
If 2017 is shaping up to be a good year for you, consider strategies to help with expansion while saving taxes:
- Buy equipment. In 2017, you can opt to expense up to $510, 000 of equipment purchases (even if you finance them) instead of depreciating the cost over a number of years. Find details in IRS Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property.
- Hire wisely. As you add to your staff, keep in mind that the work opportunity credit rewards you for hiring someone from a targeted group, such as a qualified veteran. Find details about these targeted groups and the amount of the credit in the instructions to Form 5884, Work Opportunity Credit.
- Set up a qualified retirement plan. You can save for your retirement years while cutting your current tax bill through contributions to a qualified retirement plan. If you don’t already have a plan there are several plan options; the one to choose depends on whether you have employees and how much of the contributions the business can afford to shoulder. Find more details in IRS Publication 560, Retirement Plans for Small Business.
3. Expand your R&D
You don’t have to be a drug manufacturer or a technology company to invest in research and development. Whether you do R&D to develop a product or simply find new methods for your operations by creating internal use software, you may qualify for a tax credit; this helps to underwrite the cost of research. Find more details about the research credit in the instructions to Form 6725, Credit for Increasing Research Activities.
A “qualified small business” can opt to use the credit as an offset to the employer’s share of Social Security taxes (up to $250, 000) rather than using it against income taxes. Which business is qualified? One with less than $5 million in gross receipts for the current year and no gross receipts for any year preceding the fifth year prior to the current year. For example, a business with $4 million in gross receipts in 2017 and no gross receipts prior to 2012 may use this option. Find a more extensive explanation of this option from the IRS.
4. Issue stock
If you’re a C corporation in manufacturing, technology, retail, or wholesale, you may qualify to issue stock (referred to as small business stock or Section 1202 stock) that will allow the shareholder to eventually obtain tax-free treatment for any capital gain. More specifically, if you issue the stock now and it’s held for more than five years, then all of the gain is tax free. The stock must be acquired in exchange for cash, property, or services (i.e., not received through a gift or inheritance). Thus, it can be used to:
- Bring in new investors
- Reward employees
Find more details about a qualified small business for this purpose in the instructions to Schedule D of Form 1040 .
5. Review your income tax payments
If you’re paying your income taxes on business profits through estimated taxes, you have two more times to get it right for 2017: September 15, 2017, and January 16, 2018. You don’t want to overpay, which is an interest-free loan to the government (recouped when you file for a refund), or underpay, which can result in costly tax penalties.
Remember that estimated taxes include not only regular income taxes (including the alternative minimum tax), but also:
- Self-employment tax
- 0.9% additional Medicare tax on earned income
- 3.8% additional Medicare tax on net investment income
Find more information about estimated taxes in IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.
The summer has begun. Don’t miss this opportunity to review your tax position and to determine the strategies you can use between now and the end of the year to optimize your tax bill for 2017.