Preparing for 2017 Taxes: 5 Things You Can Do Now
Your income tax obligation needs to be on your mind year-round. Here are some ways you can get a jump on your 2017 taxes.
Summer’s over. The kids are back in school. And soon, there’ll be only three months left in 2017. If you haven’t started thinking about how to minimize your income tax obligation for this year, there’s still time.
Whether you’re a small business or an individual taxpayer, year-round tax planning is more than just a way to make tax preparation an easier, faster process. By keeping taxes in mind as you go through every 12-month period, you’ll be able to see where you might take specific actions early that will have impact on what you end up owing. Make it a habit, and you’ll find that it just comes naturally to consider the tax implications of purchase and sales decisions.
Create a System
Effective tax planning requires more than just saving receipts and organizing tax-related documents in physical or digital file folders–though that’s a good start. Create a system in early January that you can maintain throughout the year (of course, a lot of your information will be stored in your accounting or personal finance application, if you use one). But you should be saving statements, receipts, sales forms–anything related to your income and expenses that will eventually feed into IRS forms or schedules.
Evaluate Your Expense-Tracking
Businesses – Sole Proprietors: How do you—and your employees, if you have them—keep track of daily expenses? You may have forms like purchase orders and bills for the big ones, but you probably buy things on occasion that are just documented by paper receipts. How do you categorize and organize these so you won’t miss any when it’s time to complete a Schedule C? Is there a better way?
YES! There are a number of applications available to capture those daily receipts using the camera on your phone and store them in a digital form so you can throw away the paper. Did you know that the digital copy is an acceptable form of support according to the IRS? Some of the applications will integrate with your accounting solution as well making record-keeping and financial reports easier and more accurate.
Do any of your employees make trips on behalf of your business? You really should consider subscribing to an online service that automates the process of creating and approving expense reports. If you’re not aware of any of these options, ask us.
Know Your Tax Forms
Individuals and businesses file some of the same forms and schedules, but some, of course, are different. Your previous years’ tax returns can be good resources for you. Refer to them occasionally as you go through the year and do some comparing, especially if you must pay quarterly estimated taxes. You may not remember from year to year what’s deductible and what’s not. Revisiting your returns will jog your memory and remind you.
Are you having a good year? You’ll have an idea of how your financial health is if you’re keeping up with income and expenses. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year to do any charitable giving that you’re going to do (although it’s usually best to hold off until the fourth quarter).
Learn How Changes Will Affect Your Taxes
This is so important for individual taxpayers. Did you get married or divorced, or have a child? Did you move? Buy or sell a home? Get a raise or, conversely, lose regular income for some reason? Did you have educational expenses? All these life events—and more—can change your income tax obligation.
Businesses often experience major changes, too, and your financial state at the end of the year is way harder to predict than it is for an individual with W-2 income. Stay on top of the impact of deviations in income and expenses created by events like the introduction of new products (or the loss of existing ones), personnel fluctuations, and major acquisitions.
Tax planning should be an element of your overall financial planning. If you have a business or household budget, you’re way ahead of the game. You can compare your actual income and expenses every month to those you built into your budget. A budget can be a tremendous tool as you plan for the current year’s taxes. If you’ve never created one, or if you’ve never stuck to one successfully, we can help you with this.
We’d also be happy to work with you periodically throughout the year on taxes. We can get you set up with financial software if you’re not already using it and advise you on ways to work toward minimizing your 2017 obligation now.