Starting a business can be expensive and complex depending on what kind of business you start. A strategic business plan helps you address questions like, what are my capital resources, how will my product or service reach the market place, or how will I manage my day-to-day operations. These are very important issues for any start-up, and must be addressed, however there are other “must knows” that are just as critical to new business success.
The first, which is the proper business form to choose could have a significant impact on your bottom line. This is because different business forms are taxed differently. The various forms of business structures include sole proprietor, LLC, Partnership, S-Corporation, or C-Corporation. Each with their own set of rules, as it relates to how you pay taxes. The next consideration, whether you should get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) has been a popular topic among start-ups. Generally, regardless of your business form, applying and obtaining an EIN is a must. This is because during the course of conducting business you will most likely make certain payments that require information return(s). The forms used to report these payments must include the payee’s identification number.
Another important consideration is deciding on your tax year. A tax year usually consists of twelve months. The IRS allows two kinds of tax years. The first is Calendar Year, which starts January 1 and ends December 31 of every year. The second is Fiscal Year. “A fiscal tax year is 12 consecutive months ending on the last day of any month except December. A 52-53-week tax year is a fiscal tax year that varies from 52 to 53 weeks but does not have to end on the last day of a month” (irs pub 538). Though most start-ups choose the calendar year, it is good to understand the difference between the two. Once your business grows it may become prudent to switch to Fiscal Year due to many potential tax advantages they may avail themselves as a result.
The next three considerations include businesses owners knowing what type of federal and state tax they will be responsible to pay, which tax forms are you required to file, and how to properly account for employees, as it relates to taxes. The IRS requires different business forms to file different tax returns (Schedule C, 1120, 1102s, 1065) at different times during the filing period. In addition, depending on whether you have W-2 employees or independent contractor’s different type information return requirements will apply. You may also be faced with state and local sales tax payment and reporting requirements. It is also important because it has been argued to be one of the most troublesome areas for small business start-ups.
Finally, understanding the proper accounting method (cash vs. accrual), what business expenses are deductible, and which records to keep and for how long are the last three “must knows”. Depending on what accounting method you choose, you could be paying more in taxes than you should. Making this determination requires a good understanding of the accounting methods available and how those methods affect your specific situation. Understanding what expenses are deductible will assist you with proper record keeping, as well as help your tax professional maximize your credits and deductions. Remember, a tax pro generally is limited to information you provide. Tax professionals may understand the implications of certain deductions, but not know without your input that said deduction(s) apply.
Kenyatta Patton, EA, MAMF