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Tax day advice, and 6 tips for next year

Six weekends remain before Tax Day, and advice for business owners abounds.

Your first stop for getting clear about what exactly your tax obligations are and how to meet them, whether you’re a sole proprietor or independent contractor or a business with employees, should probably be the IRS Small Business and Self Employed Tax Center. There you can download the forms you will need and get help determining what taxes you need to pay.

Then you’ll want to move along to all the advice that will help you minimize your tax bill.

At the SCORE website, you can find out which common small business tax mistakes to avoid, such as tossing your receipts for purchases under $75. Or spend an hour in an online workshop to learn tax secrets to keep more of what you earn, presented by the president of the American Institute of Certified Tax Coaches, which also offers a plethora of tax advice articles and resources for business owners and free agents.

The National Association for the Self Employed has launched a public awareness initiative designed to alert the public, the self-employed, and micro-businesses nationwide of this year’s changes to the tax code for the 2012 filing season. Starting Monday, NASE will publish weekly tax tips on its website, such as the ABCs of IRAs, SEPs, and other retirement plans. NASE will also offer a series of live tax expert webinars in which participants can submit questions.

The US Small Business Administration offers a variety of resources about filing and paying taxes, including an active discussion board where business owners can post and find replies to common questions.

Another government website, BusinessUSA, explains tax credits that your business might be eligible for and offers a multiple choice questionnaire about your business to lead you to links for more information.

For those already done with this year’s taxes and ready to get a jump start on preparing for next year, The National Federation of Independent Businesses will offer a 2013 Small Business Tax Outlook webinar on Wednesday, March 13,

And for making your next tax season easier, the small business accounting software platform Xero offers these 6 tips from its partner Jody Padar, CEO of New Vision CPA Group in Chicago:

1. Upgrade your equipment and software now. Section 179 of Small Business Expensing allows small businesses to deduct the full purchase price of qualifying equipment and software up to $500,000. This 2013 tax extension was on the chopping block. Take advantage of it now, as it might be cut in 2014.

2. A simplified home office deduction tax form will be available for 2013. The new simplified form caps the deduction at $1,500, but is a good option for those who choose not to spend the time calculating home offices expenses, depreciation, and carryovers of unused deductions. If your home office deduction typically exceeds the $1,500 cap, you may still choose to file the more extensive form 8829 instead. Business expenses unrelated to the home such as advertising, supplies, and wages paid to employees are still fully deductible.

3. The Payroll Tax increase really isn’t. The American Taxpayer Relief Act did not extend the payroll tax break, but the 2% break had only been in effect for two years. Consider the elimination of the break more an unfortunate recant than a tax hike.

4. Healthcare reform might increase your taxes. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, higher income taxpayers must start in 2013 paying a 3.8 percent additional tax on net investment income—interest, dividends, annuities, royalties, etc. Additionally, high earners will incur a medicare tax of 0.9 percent on wage and/or self-employment income in excess of $200,000 for single filers, $250,000 for joint filers, and $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately.

5. Upgrade your receipt-tracking system. Cloud-storage technologies offer a gamut of easy and affordable ways to keep track of your expenses. Accounting solutions including Xero’s offer mobile receipt upload. One click from your camera on an iOS or android device and bid adieu to the crumpled receipt.

6. See your accounting professional year-round. Select an accountant with a fixed fee that includes tax services. Good financial counsel can bring peace of mind and savings at tax time to the business owner.

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