You know tax time will come every year, but for some it comes four times a year. That’s right…quarterly taxes are due four times a year for those who expect to owe $1,000 or more at tax time.
The trick is determining your tax liability, which can be tricky when done right.
One of the best things about Profit First is that the money you need…for payroll, for expenses, for taxes…will always be there because you have a system and you’re using it consistently.
And while payroll and expenses are things that come up consistently, month over month, taxes can sometimes be overlooked. Or they’re something you’ll start to save for when revenue picks up or after this bill or that bill gets taken care of.
If you’re like many business owners, you’ve just closed up your books from last year, sent 1099s, gathered all your tax information, and now you’re staring down the calendar wondering when you’re going to have time to do your taxes.
Sound familiar? No one said taxes was fun but I, for one, am anxious to get mine done as soon as possible. Why’s that? Because I use the Profit First system and I have all the cash I need (and more!) saved to pay my taxes.
The 2021 calendar year is officially over, which means that tax season is upon us. (Happy New Year, right?) It’s time to start getting organized so you don’t have to ask for an extension on your taxes.
If you’ve been following along recently, you’ll know that there’s a lot you can do to prepare. We’ve told you how to reduce your taxes without reducing your net profits, we’ve shared how to work ahead so you can minimize your tax season stress, and we’ve given you tips to prepare for taxes well in advance.
Everyone likes being profitable, yet no one likes paying taxes. So, how can we reduce taxes without reducing net profit?
Making contributions to your qualified retirement plan (SEP/SIMPLE IRA; Solo 401-K; etc) through your business can reduce your federal income tax, but does not reduce your taxable net profit. The cool and unique thing about this deduction is that the IRS allows you to make retirement contributions beyond December 31, up to the filing deadline of your main tax return, in order to maximize your deduction for the previous year.
The health insurance premiums paid on behalf of the owner(s) work very similar to retirement plan contributions: They reduce your federal income tax, but not your business’s net profit. Health savings accounts can be used to achieve the same objective. First, make sure you’re eligible for the deduction. For example, if your spouse has health insurance through their employer and they have the option to cover the entire family, you may not be able to claim the deduction through your business.
If your small business is profitable (especially beyond $50K/yr) and you file taxes on Schedule C, you may benefit from electing to be taxed as an S-Corporation. This strategy will help you to legally reduce self-employment tax. But be careful when adopting this strategy. Electing to be taxed as an S-Corp comes with increased compliance issues, which means more fees. You’ll have a separate tax return to prepare, and you’ll have to run a payroll for yourself (which will require payroll tax returns). You’ll want to do this with the help of a tax pro. Make sure all of the extra fees associated with becoming and maintaining an S Corp do not eat up what would have been your tax savings.
All business owners will eventually end up filing a Form 1040 (the main tax form), and it includes all of the credits and deductions that aren’t business-related. Make sure you are maximizing all credits and deductions outside of the business. They will not reduce your net profit at all but the tax savings can be great.
The main thing to remember about the 1040 tax return is that it includes ALL sources of income, and well as all of the available credits and deductions; not just the business stuff. The popular ones are the student interest deduction, charitable contributions, the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit, etc. Reach out to your tax pro to see which credits and deductions you may qualify for.
Tax season is around the corner. Getting everything together and filed can be really stressful, especially for business owners; but it doesn’t have to be. You simply need to know what you need and have it ready by the start of the filing season.
Primarily, you’ll need to:
Your “numbers” are your annual net profit, to be exact. Hopefully, you are able to produce a Profit and Loss statement for the year because you’ve kept really good track of your books or had a bookkeeper working with you.
The Profit and Loss statement (P&L) will tell you (or your tax preparer) how much the business made in revenue, how much was spent in business expense, and the difference (profit or loss); all of which is needed to prepare the business portion of your tax return. An accurately-completed balance sheet is also helpful, but the P&L is critical.
If you use your vehicle 100% for business, tracking vehicle expenses are easy. But if you use it for both business and personal reasons, you’ll want to track the number of miles you drove for business and separate that from the personal miles. Your tax preparer will need this number to give you credit for the business use of your vehicle (56 cents/mile for 2021). If you didn’t keep good track of your business miles, use your calendar to track old appointments and meetings, and get the total for those miles driven throughout the year. You’ll also want to report the parking and toll fees you incurred during the year.
You may get a deduction for the business use of your home, but you’ll need to be able to provide some information to take advantage of it. Typically, these items should not show up on your P&L, but you can still use them to reduce your taxes. In order to claim the home office deduction, you’ll need:
Typically, you’ll be able to get a deduction for these expenses based on how much space your home office takes up (i.e. you’ll be able to deduct 8% of the total annualized expenses if your home office takes up 8% of your home).
To learn more about the home office deduction, you can get more information on the IRS website or ask your tax preparer.
Having all of these numbers ready in advance will save you a lot of stress, time, and potentially some money. So start early! And while you’re at it, start setting up some systems for next year so you’re gathering this information year-round. If you need support with this, be sure to contact us!
While income tax filings have an annual deadline, the management of your taxes is ongoing, especially as business owners.
The key to managing your taxes is Proactive Tax Planning. This can mean many things to business owners, depending on the size and complexity of your business. But for the sake of keeping things simple and pragmatic, we’ll refer to proactive tax planning as a periodic review of your financials and projected tax liability DURING the tax year. This allows you to forecast your potential tax liability and position yourself to maximize any credits or deductions you may qualify for. This is the best way to make sure you’re paying the least amount in tax that you’re legally obligated to pay. But what does this look like in practice?
It is currently the beginning of the 4th quarter in 2021 (early October). If you were actively managing your taxes throughout the year (with the help of a tax pro, of course), you will have done these things:
One of the biggest benefits that we have as business owners is the ability to control how much our businesses are taxed. How? By controlling how profitable we are. But we can only exercise that power by having up-to-date financials (a profit and loss statement and balance sheet).
You can’t know what your tax liability will be until you close out your books after December 31. This is why they call it ESTIMATED taxes. However, by having accurate financial statements, we can make very accurate projections of what you may owe. And by knowing how profitable you are as we near the end of the year, you have the ability to increase or decrease business spending, which ultimately gives you great control over what you’ll be taxed on.
There’s one popular, yet horrible strategy that I want to warn you against. There are accountants and “advisors” who will encourage business owners to sped off all of their profit in order to save on taxes. This is equivalent to spending $10 to save $3. It’s not illegal, but it’s just a bad strategy if you’re looking to build wealth. Instead, you want to focus on increasing PROFIT while budgeting for and minimizing your tax liability.
Profit First has a wonderful system to help keep sufficient tax reserves. It’s simple, painless, and can help make sure you have enough for taxes and helps you prepare for tax season, no matter how little or how much you make. Sign up now for an assessment and let’s get you started!
When a client tells me they’re finding “extra” money in their Profit First accounts, I get excited for them, but also a little concerned.
Excited because more money in their accounts usually means their revenue has increased. Business is probably going well.
Concerned because—well, remember when we explained Parkinson’s Law? The demand for something expands to match its supply. It’s a phenomenon of human behavior that proves itself time and time again. As it applies to money, here’s what happens: The more money you have, the more money you will spend.
So, for example, when you have “extra” money in your OPEX account after you pay the bills, your natural tendency is to think that’s money that can—or even should—be spent. You may drum up reasons for ongoing expense spending without thinking through if it’s feasible in the long term.
You’ll spend it, and then you’ll form habits of spending.
When you accumulate more funds than you’d anticipated having thus far in your Profit First accounts, please don’t think of that money as disposable cash. It’s really just Money Without a Plan, which is a bad thing. You should always have a plan for what to do when your revenue shifts.
The beauty of Profit First is that you can build and tweak your plans through your allocation percentages. You already know you should review them on a quarterly basis, which is fine for the most part, but sometimes revenue has grown so much that you need to make an intermediate adjustment. Here’s what to do whenever your business has more money in its accounts than you planned for. (It might be time to make some new plans.)
The most dangerous place to have extra money is in OPEX. There are many options and ways to spend money on things that fall under operating expenses—it can be tempting.
But remember that Profit First is based on circumventing Parkinson’s Law. Your OPEX allocation should be set up to just cover your current operating expenses so there’s no extra money hanging out in there.
You can give yourself a little buffer though. What’s the minimum OPEX balance for your comfort level? It might be $100 or $500 or $1000, or one month of expenses. Consider that figure your “zero.” At the end of the month when all the bills are paid, if you have substantially more than your zero in OPEX, then you need a plan for that “extra” money.
What would best serve your business? It might be time to adjust your Profit First allocations to reduce the percentage going into OPEX and to drive them closer to your target percentages for the Owner’s Pay or Tax accounts.
Or, maybe it’s time to create an advanced account or two within your system. Reallocate some OPEX funds into its own separate bucket for an Annual Expense account, or a Marketing account… It all depends on your business needs.
Extra money in OPEX almost always means that overall revenue has increased. But it can also mean you’ve cut your operating expenses. Usually that’s part of a plan too, so your allocations should be adjusted accordingly.
Let this money accumulate until you’ve paid the taxes for the current period. Repeat: don’t do anything with this money until you’ve paid your taxes!
Once that’s done, you can transfer the extra funds to your Profit account and withdraw them as a profit distribution when the time comes. Or you could add the funds to an advanced account you’re working to build up.
If you’re finding extra money in the Tax account even though your revenue hasn’t substantially increased (or nothing else has dramatically changed), this could indicate that you may have been a little off in calculating your Profit First targets the last go around. The percentage allocated for taxes should result in the right amount of reserves you’ll actually need, because it’s based on your total revenue.
If it’s not making sense to you, seek the guidance of your Profit First coach or tax professional before adjusting your target allocations.
Good. This is one time when you need a little “extra” in there, or else freaking out may ensue. The pandemic has taught us that it’s so important to still be able to pay yourself when revenue dries up in turbulent times.
As with OPEX, you can decide on a comfort buffer. For some owners, it’s one month’s pay. But we recommend saving a cushion of three months. It really depends on your personal financial needs. Talk to your Profit First coach for guidance on the buffer and how long to keep it in your account—it’ll be different for every owner based on your overall financial health.
If you’ve accumulated more than three months in Owner’s Pay, think about increasing your monthly pay disbursement, or adjust your allocations to put more money in Profit and use it to work toward building a rainy day fund or retirement plan. Realize that anything in Profit is still owner’s pay, but sometimes it’s how you label the funds that can determine how wisely you spend them.
No one has ever complained that having extra money in their Profit account was a problem—go figure. But let’s say you’ve taken your regular profit distributions, you’ve paid off all your debt, you’re jetlagged from enough vacations… and you’ve still got extra profit that you don’t know what to do with. This is the moment to put your profits to work for you, by venturing into investments and retirement planning, if you haven’t already.
However, this is assuming you’ve already got three to six months of revenue sitting in a VAULT account. This is the ultimate disaster preparedness plan for your business, and if you’ve got more Profit than you know what to do with, then you’re surely in good enough shape to be amassing a VAULT.
Don’t hesitate to ask us for help in designing a plan at any stage of your business journey. This is exactly what we do.
First, the tax law is constantly changing, which can cause your tax liability to change, even if all other factors remain the same.
Also, the final tax bill that business owners receive often includes income from sources outside of the business, as well as deductions, credits, and penalties outside of the business.
And to complicate it further, let’s just say there’s a reason the IRS calls them “quarterly ESTIMATED taxes.” You can’t know your tax liability until you close your books at year’s end.
The best and most accurate way to project your tax liability is to have tax planning sessions throughout the year with a tax professional.
Tax pros keep up with the constant tax law changes and can include business and non-business factors to provide very (but not completely) accurate projections throughout the year. A tax pro can also proactively look for tax savings opportunities to make sure you’re keeping your taxes as low as possible.
First, the IRS doesn’t project your tax liability; it suggests you pay your estimated taxes for the present year, based on the tax liability of the previous year. So, if last year’s tax liability was $4000, the IRS wants you to pay $1000 in quarterly installments throughout the year.
This method (for paying estimated taxes) is better than nothing, but if you have a drastic increase in income, you could still end up with a very high tax bill using this method alone.
The Profit First cash flow management system doesn’t project your tax liability either (which is very complex). But what it does really well is to make sure that you always have enough in reserves for whatever tax bills come your way.
The Profit First system works off of percentages, so you’ll have a lot of money in reserves if you did well, and not so much if you had a bad year. Either way, you’ll have enough in reserves based on the performance of your business. And you don’t have to be a tax nerd to get it right.
At Fit For Profit, we can help you with implementing Profit First into your business so you can feel secure that you’ll have enough saved for taxes. Fill out this form and book a call to get started.
One of the beautiful things about the Profit First system is always having enough in reserves to pay your taxes. But what happens when tax time rolls around and there’s simply not enough cash to pay all of the taxes?