Ten Tax Planning Ideas for Small Businesses in 2009


S Corporation:  Set up an S Corporation to avoid self-employment
tax on profits. If you conduct business as a sole proprietor, a partnership,
or a limited liability company the first $106,800 of 2009 profits are subject to a self-employment
tax rate of 15.3%. The profits in excess of $106,800 are
subject to a Medicare tax rate of 2.9%. These self-employment tax rates are in addition
to paying income tax on the profits. An S Corporation is not subject to self-employment tax on the profits earned.
But you must take “reasonable” compensation as salary subject to F.I.C.A.

Bad Debt Expense:  A reserve for bad debts is not deductible,
but you can write off accounts receivable in the year in which they become uncollectible. 
Be sure to take advantage of writing off all those uncollected accounts at year

If you used a collection agency, you can deduct a portion of the debt that will
go to the collection agency as a fee (around 25%).  You can write off that
amount at the time you turn over the receivable to the agency.

Medical Expense:  For 2009, eligible self-employed
individuals can deduct from gross income 100% of the amounts paid for health insurance
coverage. The deduction is limited to net earned income from the business, less the deduction
for 50% of the self-employment tax.
Also, you cannot take the deduction for any month you were qualified to participate
in an employer sponsored health plan.

If you conduct business as a corporation, set up a corporate medical reimbursement
plan. Medical costs are generally personal expenses deductible only to the
extent that they exceed 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). However,
medical reimbursement plans set up by C Corporations let you deduct all the medical
costs you incur for yourself, your spouse, and dependents. These plans must
cover all eligible employees.

Equipment Expense:  For 2009, Section
179 of the Tax Code lets companies deduct up to $133,000 of new equipment, subject
to certain limits. (This limit is reduced by the amount by
which the cost of section 179 property placed in service in
the tax year exceeds $530,000.) Passenger vehicles are excluded from the expensing election.
A passenger vehicle is defined as having a loaded gross vehicle weight of
less than 6,000 pounds.

The tax code also allows an accelerated method to depreciate the remaining value
of that equipment – it’s faster than the straight-line method of depreciation.

Home Office Expense:  Write off home-office expenses. 
You can take this deduction even if you use the space for administrative purposes,
as long as there is no where else you can work.  When you use one room in your
six room home as an office, you can deduct one-sixth of your costs for utilities,
security, homeowner’s insurance, etc. as well as all costs for the room such as
carpeting.  Although you can also claim the depreciation on your home used
for home office, you should consult a qualified tax advisor prior to doing so to
understand the impact it will have on the exclusion of gain when you sell your residence.

Travel Expense:  Deduct business trips by putting your spouse
on the payroll. When spouses are on the payroll, even at low salaries, cost
of business trips that include the spouse can be fully deducted. You should
also be aware that putting your spouse on the payroll in 2009 will also double the
amount of Social Security tax owed up to the first $106,800 of income.

Hiring Children in the Family Business:  Put your children
on the company payroll. When you employ your children in the business, for 2009
you can pay them up to $5,350 in salary free from Federal tax. The “kiddie”
tax doesn’t apply to wages, so children under age 18 get this tax break, too.
Have your children put $4,000 into a Roth IRA, where it will compound tax-free over
time. When the money is left in the account until they turn 59 ½, they will
never have to pay out any tax or penalties on that money or its earnings.

If your business is not incorporated, and the children are under age 18, neither
you, as employer, nor your children will owe Social Security or Medicare tax on
their wages.

Retirement Planning:  Put more money away in your company
retirement plan for yourself than for your employees.  Business owners who
are more than 20 years older that other company employees can set up a defined-benefit
pension plan instead of a defined-contribution plan.  Because they are funding
a specific benefit (not putting away a percentage of salary) and have fewer years
to do so, owners can contribute more to the plan for themselves than their employees.

Claiming Business Losses:  Make the most of business losses.
If your company has a net operating loss in 2009, it can be carried back two years
or carried forward up to 20 years to offset future profits. To get a refund,
file an application on Form 1139 for corporations and Form 1045 for sole
proprietorships. Most refunds are sent out by the IRS within
two months.

Education:  Set up a company tuition-reimbursement plan to
pay a child’s school cost.  Businesses can set up plans that pay up to $5,250
in tuition per employee annually.  Business owners’ children must work for
the company, be older than age 21, own no company stock and cannot be claimed as
a dependent on the owners’ tax returns.



Alan L. Olsen, CPA, MBA (tax) is the managing partner at Greenstein Rogoff Olsen  & Co., a top Bay Area CPA firm. A specialist in income tax planning, he frequently lectures and writes tax planning articles for professional organizations and community groups.