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Little-Known Tax Tips for Small-Business Owners

Updated for Tax Year 2020


OVERVIEW

At tax time, small businesses look for ways to save money and maximize credits and deductions. “One of the most overlooked ways for small businesses to save at tax time starts at the beginning of each tax year,” advises David Ayoub, CPA in Syracuse, N.Y. “It’s simple. Keep every receipt. Find a way to corral all the loose receipts lying around your desk, in your purse and in your car. They can add up to a lot of deductions.” Another easy and often overlooked deduction is the cash transactions that many small businesses do. “Keep track of everything in a log,” adds Ayoub.


coffee shop owner standing outside of her store

Carry forward the health credit

The healthcare tax credit is offered on a sliding scale. Businesses that employ fewer than 10 full-time-equivalent employees with average wages under $25,000 per person get the most benefit. To claim the credit, use form 8941 to calculate your eligibility. If your business did not owe taxes in that year, you may be able to carry the credit forward. If a remainder of the tax premium exists, you can claim business expenses against it.

Deduct section 179 property

Small businesses can opt to deduct the full amount of certain property as expenses in the year the business began using them. This is referred to as section 179 property and can include up to $1,000,000 of eligible business property in the 2020 tax year. Some eligible deductions include:

  • Property used in manufacturing, transportation and production
  • Any type of facility used for business or research
  • Buildings used to hold livestock or horticultural products
  • Off-the-shelf computer software

Excluded:

  • Land
  • Investment property
  • Land outside of the U.S.
  • Buildings that provide lodging
  • Buildings that are used to store air conditioning or heating units

Bonus Depreciation: Bonus depreciation has been changed for qualified assets acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017. The old rules of 50% bonus depreciation still apply for qualified assets acquired before September 28, 2017. These assets had to be purchased new, not used. The new rules allow for 100% bonus "expensing" of assets that are new or used. The percentage of bonus depreciation phases down in 2023 to 80%, 2024 to 60%, 2025 to 40%, and 2026 to 20%. After 2026 there is no further bonus depreciation. This bonus "expensing" should not be confused with expensing under Code Section 179 which has entirely separate rules, see above.

The 100% expensing is also available for certain productions (qualified film, television, and live staged performances) and certain fruit or nuts planted or grafted after September 27, 2017.

50% bonus first year depreciation can be elected over the 100% expensing for the first tax year ending after September 27, 2017.

TurboTax can assist you in choosing what types of property are appropriate deductibles.

Deduct appreciable stock contributions

Many small businesses make charity contributions throughout the year and deduct the amount that’s donated. Ayoub suggests a way to maximize these contributions. “Donate appreciable stocks instead of money,” he advises. “Your business can deduct the current worth of the stock at the time of contributing, as opposed to what the stock was originally purchased (for).” For example, if you donate one share of a stock that you bought a year ago for $50 per share, and that stock is now worth $100 per share, you can deduct $100 at tax time. This gives you a deduction of the $50 you paid for the share plus the additional $50 that the share appreciated.

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