Every startup must pays taxes. But many business owners dread it.
This dread likely stems from several factors – from impacts on cash flow to that nearly everything is taxable these days.
But much of that fear comes from uncertainty around not knowing if you’re taking the right approach. No one wants to leave money on the table, especially when it comes to tax time.
Here’s how to be confident when it comes to startup taxes.
Step One: Learn the Basics of Startup Taxes
Most startups have (or should have) a professional handling most aspects of their taxes. But even so, as an owner, knowing the basics can help avoid tax surprises and help with planning business actions better.
Deadlines and Forms
Knowing your company’s filing deadlines helps you stay organized. No one wants to rush around at the last minute, trying to file your forms on time. This hectic increases the likelihood of errors.
As a founder, you should also understand the forms your business needs to file. Taxes can be complicated, and putting together the proper records can help ensure you’re paying the right amounts.
Understand Your Obligations for Employees and Contractors
If you have employees, payroll taxes can be one of your company’s most significant tax obligations. You’ll also need to file various forms on your employees’ behalf.
But to file these forms properly, you’ve got to collect the correct personal information from your employees.
This same applies to independent contractors. Although you won’t pay withholding taxes for them, you’ll need to file 1099s for anyone you pay over $600 in a year for services provided, with some exceptions.
Step Two: Learn Common Issues
Becoming aware of the most common startup tax issues can go a long way to helping you avoid them.
Get Your Structure Right
There are many ways to structure a business: sole proprietor, partnership, a corporation (c-corp or s-corp), or a limited liability company (LLC).
The structure you choose affects how you pay your taxes and how you need to file them. The right one for you will depend mainly on the size and complexity of your business and your shareholder structure.
Keep Your Records Current
Taxes generally aren’t something most founders want to DIY.
Even if you use a professional on your taxes, they will need accurate and current financial records. These records will be easier to assemble if you track your financials monthly.
Estimated Taxes and Cash Flow Management
Many employees tend to think about paying taxes only once a year, and they forget that an employer is withholding a portion of each check on their behalf.
No one is withholding those kinds of payments for your startup. A startup needs to pay its taxes every quarter if it has taxable income, so it’s essential to be aware of the deadlines.
Because taxes can have a significant impact on a business’s cash flow, it’s not enough to merely be aware of the deadlines. You need to have the cash available to pay that estimated payment. Implement a proactive strategy and set aside enough to cover your quarterly payments.
Putting together what you owe in taxes at the last minute can be nearly impossible if you don’t. Failure to pay on time can result in significant penalties and interest on unpaid amounts.
Step Three: Understand Potential Tax Problems
Unfortunately, not learning the basics and ignoring common tax issues can turn into potential tax problems that can put your business at risk.
While some of those risks can be relatively minor in nature – such as overpaying on taxes, they can also become quite significant.
Insufficient Expense Tracking
Business deductions can be tricky. It’s not uncommon for startups to take too many or too few deductions. Knowing what sort of expenses can be deducted helps.
You also need to prove the business incurred them to deduct the expenses. Not being able to prove expenses are ordinary and necessary in the course of operating your business means you can’t claim them.
Consistently tracking expenses can save you the hassle of scrambling around at the last minute. Many tools are available that can link to your bank accounts and credit cards to help you automate expense tracking.
Not Claiming Credits
Learn about the tax credits that apply to your business. These credits can be anything from R&D tax credits to credits related to improving the energy efficiency of your buildings or simply state or local incentives for having your headquarters in a particular location.
Not claiming credits means your business is overpaying on taxes and leaving cash on the table.
Using contractors still means paperwork. Any contractor you pay over $600 in a year needs to get a 1099.
Make sure to distribute your 1099s promptly at the beginning of the year. Failure to do this can cause penalties for you and inconvenience your contractors.
Mixing Personal and Business Finances
Many founders get into hot water by mixing personal and business accounts.
Of course, in the beginning, it can feel like everything is coming and going from the same place. Many personal and business aspects of life get mixed, but you shouldn’t blend finances.
Step Four: Begin Planning in Advance
Taxes are an aspect of life where a bit of upfront time and energy can save loads of headaches (and resources) on the back end.
Filing taxes is a reactive exercise. You’re preparing to pay a burden based on revenue and expenses that have already happened.
Planning is about getting ahead of your taxes to make sure nothing slips through the cracks, and you don’t pay more than you owe.
Making the switch from reactive to proactive with your taxes can have a massive impact on your business and how you perceive your tax situation.
Be Confident in Your Tax Filings
Startup taxes can be challenging, but they don’t have to be scary.
A little bit of research and a great partner can go a long way towards a good tax situation.
Founder’s CPA specializes in startup taxes. If you’d like to approach your startup taxes confidently, knowing your tax strategy is sound, schedule a free consultation with one of our startup tax experts.