Here is some concise advice from Wells Fargo for all you small business owners/freelancers out there. This "check-list" seems to very accurate and is similar to the list I used when I was a freelancer (and no, that was not the year I was audited, at least not yet!). Enjoy...
Have You Covered All Your Tax Bases?
The 2006 tax year is nearly behind us, but that doesn’t mean everyone is squared away for April 17. It can be easy to forget some of the “low-hanging fruit”: write-offs that can still reduce your tax burden.
If you’re still getting your numbers together for your returns, or you know you’ll be filing for an extension, don’t forget the following write-offs:
Write off the purchases of computers, printers, answering machines, copiers, furniture and other tangible equipment through Section 179 as depreciation expense in the year of purchase. (The maximum Section 179 deduction you can elect for property you placed in service in 2006 is $108,000 for qualified property. This limit is reduced by the amount by which the cost of Section 179 property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $430,000.)
Internet, telephone, and cell phone service.
Professional dues and other business dues, such as Chamber of Commerce, trade group membership, etc.
Office supplies and postage.
Auto expenses deducted under one of the following methods:
Standard mileage: Consider taking the standard mileage rate on all business miles ($0.445 per mile in 2006 and $0.485 per mile in 2007), or
Actual cost: The itemization of auto expenses, which would include the following, multiplied by the appropriate business use percentage.
Repairs and maintenance.
Interest on your auto loan at the appropriate business use percentage.
Parking and tolls.
Legal and professional fees.
Business entertainment (the IRS allows a 50% deduction).
Business meals (the IRS allows a 50% deduction, unless the meals are provided on your business premises, in which case they are 100% deductible).
Interest on credit cards for purchases that are applicable to business use.
Interest on bank loans and lines of credit to buy equipment and pay for business operating expenses is always deductible.
Advertising and promotions.
Seminars and trade shows.
Business gifts ($25 limit per person).
Cost of acquired computer software. Software included in the purchase price of a computer (not separately stated) is added to the basis of the computer and depreciated over five years, or expensed under Section 179. Off-the-shelf software is depreciated over 36 months using the Straight Line method, beginning with the month the software is placed in service.
If you have a home office, you’re also eligible for a range of write-offs based on the portion of your home used “exclusively” for business. Determine the percentage of your home’s square footage used for business as a percentage of the total square footage of your home. If it’s 15%, for example, you can deduct 15% of:
Interest on your home loan.
Maintenance and repairs.
Burglar alarm system.
Depreciation on your home.
Start-up costs. If you’re a new business owner, you can write off start-up costs connected with setting up or investigating the creation or purchase of a trade or business. These expenses occur before the business begins operations. Start-up costs can include survey of potential markets, advertising for business opening, consulting or other professional fees, cost of training employees, analysis of possible facilities, labor force, supplies, etc., and travel and related expenses to secure distributors, suppliers and customers. An election under Section 195 allows taxpayers to deduct up to $5,000 of start-up costs and amortize the remainder over 180 months. The election to deduct or amortize must be made no later than the filing date for the tax return of the year in which the business begins (including extensions).
Fixed assets. Review your businesses’ schedule of fixed assets and record, if applicable, losses from the sale or abandonment of any of these assets.
Bad debts. Review your accounts receivable to see what can be written off as bad debt. Business bad debts are treated as ordinary losses and can be deducted when they become partially or wholly worthless. In order to deduct a bad debt, you must have previously included the amount in your income or loaned out your cash. If you are a cash-basis taxpayer, as most individuals and S Corps are, you may not take a bad debt deduction for income you expected to receive but didn’t because the amount was never included in your income.
Consider setting up a retirement plan. Many retirement plans need to be set up by year end. However, one that is still available for year 2006 is the simplified employee pension plan (SEP). It does not need to be set up and funded until the due date (including extensions) of the employer’s return (S Corp) or the individual’s Form 1040, which includes Schedule C. For 2006, the maximum deduction is 25% of compensation or $44,000 (whichever is less) with compensation considered limited to $220,000. Note that the earnings from self-employment must be reduced by 50% of the self-employment tax in determining the amount of the retirement plan contribution. Thanks to Jim Dowling, Senior Tax Manager with CPA firm Weaver and Tidwell, LLP’s Tax Practice Services Group.