Nov 05, 2009

Top Tax Deductions For Your Small Business

When you're totaling up your business's expenses at the end of the year, don't overlook these valuable business deductions. Remember, the more tax deductions your business can legitimately take, the lower its taxable profit will be. It's that simple. But you need to know what is -- and isn't -- deductible, and pay careful attention to IRS rules. Here are some of the more common deductible business expenses that you won't want to miss.
1. Expenses of Going Into Business. The costs of getting a business started are capital expenses, $5,000 of which you may deduct the first year you're in business; any remainder must be deducted in equal amounts over the next 15 years.
2. Equipment Purchases. Under Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code, you can fully deduct up to $250,000 of certain business equipment you purchase in 2009 (subject to a phase-out if you spend more than $800,000). There is also a first-year bonus depreciation deduction in effect for 2009 which allows you to depreciate 50% of the adjusted basis of qualified property purchased during the year. Take advantage of these tremendous tax savings if you can--the Section 179 deduction is scheduled to go down to $133,000 in 2010 and bonus deduction expires at the end of the year.  
3. Auto Expenses. If you use your car for business, or your business owns its own vehicle, you can deduct some of the costs of keeping it on the road. Mastering the rules of car expense deductions can be tricky, but well worth your while.
4. Business Entertaining. If you pick up the tab for entertaining present or prospective customers, you may deduct 50% of the cost.
5. Travel. When you travel for business, you can deduct many expenses, including the cost of plane fare, taxis, lodging, meals, telephone calls, faxes, and tips.
6. Legal and Professional Fees. Fees that you pay to lawyers, tax professionals, or consultants generally can be deducted in the year incurred. However, if the work clearly relates to future years, they must be deducted over the life of the benefit you receive.
7. Bad Debts. If someone stiffs your business, the bad debt may or may not be deductible -- it depends on the kind of product your business sells. If your business sells goods, you can deduct the cost of goods that you sell but aren't paid for. If your business provides services, no deduction is allowed for time you devoted to a client or customer who doesn't pay.
8. Interest. If you use credit to finance business purchases, the interest and carrying charges are fully tax deductible. The same is true if you take out a personal loan and use the proceeds for your business. Be sure to keep good records demonstrating that the money was used for your business.
9. Taxes. Taxes incurred in operating your business are generally deductible. How and when they are deducted depends on the type of tax.
10. Advertising and Promotion. The cost of ordinary advertising of your goods or services -- business cards, yellow page ads, and so on -- is deductible as a current expense. Promotional costs that create business goodwill -- for example, sponsoring a peewee football team -- are also deductible as long as there is a clear connection between the sponsorship and your business.
See Deduct It! by Stephen Fishman (Nolo) for more information on tax deductions for your small business.