Mention “taxes” to an entrepreneur and the likely response will be a rolling of the eyes, a litany of complaints about the complexities of the rules governing small businesses and a few well-chosen verbal jabs at the Internal Revenue Service.
Central Maine SCORE mentor Jack Tetreault admits that, “The IRS may be the agency everyone loves to hate, but they only manage the tax laws and policies that Congress passes. And rather than being a bane to small business, the agency has taken several initiatives to be a benefit to owners and the self-employed by providing much-needed guidance to tax procedures and requirements without those confusing ‘Gov-speak’ terms.”
One of the chief improvements is a special website, www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed.
“This is a great place to give yourself a tax smarts tune-up,” Tetreault said, “and what could be more authoritative than information coming from the chief tax honchos themselves?”
Scroll down to the section labeled “Starting, Operating or Closing a Business,” for example, and you will find a tremendous amount of tax territory and includes much of the website’s most useful information. This is where you will find IRS rules on hiring your own kids or other family members, record keeping, employer ID numbers and selecting a business structure.
There’s also help answering a key tax-related question: Is what you are doing a true business or merely a hobby? If the IRS decides your “business” is really just a hobby, your expenses may not be deductible. Look for their nine-point checklist to see how you stack up. Also visit the “Industries/Professions” section for specific information about tax regulations that may apply to your type of business.
The advice and information under “Operating a Business” is helpful for just about any type of small business. If you have employees, you will find resources on hiring, employment taxes and wage reporting requirements.
The all-important “Business Expenses” section defines the types of costs you can and cannot deduct from your taxes.
For the self-employed and independent contractors, there is a full section that covers filing requirements, when a tax ID number is necessary, a listing of special publications and forms, responsibilities associated with operating and closing a business and other valuable information.
Your local SCORE chapter office provides resources and materials to improve or start your small business. Contact Central Maine SCORE at 782-3708, or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Auburn Public Library for an appointment with a volunteer mentor. In Oxford Hills, call 743-0499; in Rumford-Mexico, call 364-3123. Or contact SCORE at www.SCOREmaine.org.
This column is provided by the Central Maine SCORE chapter.