Filing your taxes each year can be a daunting experience. Even if you’re only handling an individual income tax return. When you operate a business. The situation is often significantly more complex. Whether you run a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), or any other kind of corporation. You will need to file forms with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – and possibly your state, as well – covering that organization’s financial activities. If you are wondering what’s the best way to do your taxes when running your own business. Here’s what you need to know.
Preparing to Do Your Federal Taxes When Running a Business
Start with Record Collection
Generally speaking, your first step any time you need to file your taxes is to gather the various financial documents that you’ll need to complete the forms. In most cases, this is any receipts, statements, financial records, or other kinds of paperwork that demonstrate your business earnings, losses, and expenses.
Without the records, you won’t be able to fill in all of the details that need to be present on your tax forms. As a result, it’s best to handle this in advance. Thus, ensuring that, once you sit down to take care of your filing. You will have everything you need available.
Select the Right Forms
The forms you need to file with the IRS vary depending on the type of business you operate. If you’re a sole proprietorship, then you’ll usually need to attach a Schedule C to your personal income tax return. The same goes if you are operating an LLC, are the sole owner of the business, and want to treat the company like a sole proprietorship, which is an option.
However, if you prefer to treat the LLC as a separate entity, you’ll need to use Form 1120. The same is true for C-Corps.
If you use software or a tax professional to file, you’ll usually get some assistance when it comes to choosing forms. If you’re doing your taxes by hand on actual paper, then you’ll need to make sure you get printed copies of the correct forms.
Learn the Deadlines
Different filing deadlines may apply depending on the kind of business you run. For sole proprietorships, the deadline is the same as it is for personal income taxes. As a result, you typically need to complete your filing by April 15 to be on time.
C-Corps have to file by the 15th day of the fourth month following the closing of the tax year being filed. Typically, that means filing by April 15, as well.
S-Corps have to file Form 1120S by the 15th day of the third month following the closing of the tax year. As a result, that means having to file by March 15, in most cases.
By knowing the deadlines that impact you, you can make sure that you file in a timely manner. Since filing late can have consequences, this allows you to avoid fees, penalties, or other issues.
However, if you need more time beyond the deadline, it lets you know the cutoff for requesting an extension. If you file for an extension by the initial due date – usually by submitting a Form 4868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return or Form 7004: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns, depending on your type of business – you can typically get yourself more time to handle your business tax filing.
Research Tax Breaks
Before you move forward with completing your forms, it’s wise to do a little research into business tax breaks. By spending some time looking into what may be available, you increase your odds of securing every deduction or credit that may be available to you, ensuring you can reduce your tax burden while using the correct options.
The number of available IRS business tax credits is extensive, covering anything from hiring workers from specific demographic groups to using alternative energy vehicles as part of your company’s operations. These give you credits and deductions beyond your business expenses, and they can potentially add up quickly.
Depending on the tax break involved, this can also mean needing another tax form. Many require the use of a Form 3800: General Business Credit, so you want to make sure you have this available if you plan on filing a paper return.
Decide How You Want to File
When it comes time to file, you can usually either file electronically or mail your return to the appropriate office. Either approach is allowed, even if paper returns are largely falling out of favor.
Electronic submission is usually the preferred method. With an electronic filing, you can easily track when the information is received. Plus, you don’t really have to worry about your return being lost or damaged along the way.
Even if there’s an issue with an electronic submission, you’ll typically get an alert, allowing you to correct the problem quickly. If a paper return gets lost in the mail or is damaged to the point it becomes unreadable, you likely won’t know that anything has gone wrong. As a result, you could face penalties for a late or missing filing simply because your tax forms weren’t officially received or couldn’t be processed when they arrived.
Preparing to Do Your State Taxes When Running a Business
In many cases, the process of preparing to complete your state taxes when you run a business is similar to the approach you need to handle your federal tax filing. You’ll need to gather documents, research forms, and filing requirements based on your business type, learn about any potential tax breaks, and go over the deadlines in advance.
However, the exact process may vary from one state to the next. As a result, you’ll need to do some additional research regarding your state’s specific requirements. That way, you can follow any required processes, ensuring you handle this obligation correctly as well.
Filing Your Taxes When You Run a Business
When the time arrives for you to actually file your taxes, you have two choices. First, you can tackle the work yourself, completing your own documents and handling the submission.
Usually, if you are going the do-it-yourself route, the best option for small business owners is to take advantage of tax software. This can include downloadable options or web-based services, as both of them typically offer a similar experience.
You can follow the prompts to fill in the needed sections. Typically, you won’t have to worry about doing any math by hand, as the software will complete the calculations for you.
Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to review the figures for accuracy. While tax software typically won’t make a math mistake, if you incorrectly enter information, choose the wrong options, or there happens to be an error in the software, it could result in incorrect numbers. You’re ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your returns, which is why you should always look at the details closely before you finalize the filing.
Then, once all of the details are in place, and you’ve reviewed them for accuracy, you can file electronically or print out the forms and mail them. With electronic filing, you can apply a digital signature, sign up for notifications that will let you know when your documents were received, and save a copy of the documents for your records.
You Could Hire A Tax Professional
Alternatively, you can hire a tax professional to handle the paperwork and manage the submission of taxes. This method may be better if your tax situation is particularly complex or you simply don’t have the time, energy, or desire to take care of the filing yourself.
Generally, filing through a tax professional will cost more than doing it yourself. However, it does give you direct access to a tax expert who may be able to help you find credits, deductions, or approaches that may benefit you.
Additionally, just because you use a tax professional, that doesn’t mean filing electronically won’t be an option. Many tax preparers have the ability to submit your taxes electronically. However, some may rely on the paper approach, which means putting your return in the mail.
If you want the benefits of an electronic submission but also wish to use a tax professional, speak with them before you begin the process. That way, you can confirm the preparer can meet that need before you hire them to handle your tax filing.
Do you run your own business? What approach do you use when tax time rolls around? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald is a U.S. Army veteran with 20 years of service, including five years as a military financial advisor. After retiring from the Army, she spent eight years as an AFCPE-certified personal financial advisor for wounded warriors and their families. Now she writes about personal finance and benefits programs for numerous financial websites.