Saturday, November 22, 2008

Some Year End Tax Planning

1. Book a tax-planning meeting in order to devise a year end strategy specifically for your firm. Why the need for fine-tuning? Some small companies' revenues are down for 2008, not because their business has declined but because pinched customers are paying their bills more slowly. As a result, additional revenue will trickle in as late payments during early 2009 just when tax rates may go. Some companies may have the equivalent of 10 months of income this year, and 14 next year and they may not want to defer additional income into 2009.

2. Take advantage of bonus depreciation.
For qualified assets placed in service in 2008, you may claim an extra 50% deduction in addition to normal depreciation and deductions available under the Internal Revenue Code's Section 179. The Section 179 "expensing" deduction allows a business to write off the full cost (rather than depreciating it over several years) of certain business assets, including machinery, vehicles, equipment, and computers, up to a certain dollar level. For 2008, the maximum deduction limit was increased to $250,000. The asset must be "placed in service" in 2008 in order to take advantage of the increased dollar limit for assets that will be expensed under section 179. Therefore, you cannot deduct the cost of a computer system you've ordered but that won't be operating in your office until January. "If you need a piece of equipment, make the purchase and get it placed in service in the same year.

3. If you have a vehicle that you use both for work and business, increase your business driving and decrease your personal driving to get the most out of the tax deduction for personally owned vehicles. If you use your vehicle for 50% business driving and 50% personal driving, try increasing your business driving in order to increase the allowale percentage of vehicle expenses as well as other vehicle expenses, like oil changes and maintenance.

Alternatively, you can choose to take the standard mileage rate for 2008. That was 50.5¢ per mile for the first half of 2008 and 58.5¢ per mile for the second half. Only small business owners that file Schedule Cs, such as sole proprietors, are allowed to choose which way to take their vehicle deductions.

4. If your company operates on the accrual basis for tax purposes, fix your employees' bonus amounts before Jan. 1, but pay them early next year. Generally, the bonuses aren't taxable to employees until 2009, but they can be deducted on your company's 2008 return so long as they're announced in 2008 and paid by Mar. 16, 2009.

5. If you're doing major renovations at your business location, make sure you schedule repairs and maintenance jobs separately. "Capital improvements aren't deductible as business expenses, however, ordinary and neccessary maintenance repairs are. Improvement costs are added to the 'basis' of the property for tax purposes." Lumping all the work into one project could cheat you out of 100% deductible business expenses.

6. Keep detailed records of collection efforts that will support any deductions you take for bad debt that becomes worthless in 2008. If you can't get one of those pinched clients to pay up, you can write the amount off provided you can show you made a good-faith effort to collect the debt. That means keeping records of telephone calls, letters, and other efforts you've made to get the money, including hiring a collection agency.

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