Getting your small business organized for tax season

Although I try to keep tax records for my business current throughout the year, inevitably there is work to be done after year-end to organize my business for tax season. Here are the steps that I take to ensure that my business meets all tax filing deadlines and gets all necessary tax documents to its accountant on time.

December

I use accounting software for my business, which is a tremendous time saver in many ways, including during tax season. One of the chores that I complete in December is to review my business' income and expenses for the year and to make sure that they are recorded prior to year-end so that they fall in the correct tax year. This may sound obvious, but timing mistakes can create serious tax headaches.

January

January is a busy month when it comes to organizing my business for the coming tax season. Here are the principal tax-related tasks that I complete during the month.

First, I call my accountant to schedule a meeting, which is usually in February, to discuss my business taxes. This call also is a good opportunity to discuss any tax-related issues that may affect how I prepare for that meeting and what material I need to bring to it.

Second, January is when I make certain federal, state and local annual and quarterly tax filings for my business, since they need to be done before my business returns for the year are prepared by my accountant.

Third, in January, I also begin to gather and organize tax documents that I will need to give to my accountant so that he can prepare my business's tax returns. In order to be sure that I don't overlook any of these important reports, I prepare a list of 1099s, W-2s, bank statements and other documents that I expect to receive or must prepare myself so that I can track them as they come in. This system allows me to quickly identify any missing documents and to take steps to obtain them before meeting with my business's accountant.

Fourth, another chore I complete before talking with my accountant is to be sure that all my receipts and expense records for the prior year are in order. Among other things, I go over my mileage records. My business deducts mileage for personal use of my car by the business. While I make it a habit to track mileage throughout the year, I review this information at year-end to be sure that it is complete and accurate. In addition, I take care that my expense receipts are organized and that I have the records I need for my business credit card.

February

If all goes well, by early to mid-February I have gathered and organized the records and other information that I need to give my accountant and can offload the remaining tax preparation chores to him, while I go back to minding my business.

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