TAX TIME CAN be confusing for anyone. But for business owners, who often have to track expenses and inventory levels and make sure the books balance all while not missing a single deduction, this time of year can be downright disconcerting.
While many business owners seek tax filing help from qualified accountants or tax professionals, others choose to go it alone — making the job of filing properly all the more challenging. Lone filers who face tough questions and no answers sometimes wind up procrastinating, which can lead to missed filing deadlines and tax penalties.
To curb the confusion, here are some free resources to get you in the know and that return on its way:
IRS to the Rescue
Your first stop for answering basic federal tax questions should be the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s web site. To read the IRS’s small-business owners’ tax guide, check out Publication 334 . For a list of other business tax publications including guides for employers and business expenses click here — and here to read answers to frequently asked business tax questions. If you’re still confused, online tax tutorials may shed light. If these methods fail, call the IRS’s business tax hotline number 1-800-829-4933.
For in-person advice, the IRS and the U.S. Small Business Administration (along with its affiliates Small Business Development Centers and SCORE) may offer free tax workshops in your state. On March 13 in Tampa, Fla., for example, the Florida Small Business Development Center will hold a business taxes workshop . A similar workshop to help sole proprietors with tax and bookkeeping issues will be held at various times throughout March and April in Seattle. To see if there are any workshops in your state, click here . Business owners also can direct tax questions to volunteer counselors at SCORE .
Looking for an interactive offering? The IRS (in coordination with the SBA) offers a free Small Business Resource Guide CD-ROM. To order a CD, which includes business tax forms, instructions and publications along with various tax law changes, call 1-800-TAX-FORM or click here . You can also order the Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop DVD for free. For other IRS tax initiatives, click here .
States Pitch In
Some states have made it easier to meet your business’s state filing requirements. For example, Pennsylvania this year has improved its electronic system, allowing business owners the option to file Schedule C forms (for reporting business profits or losses) via the Internet. The state says the electronic system performs the math and helps eliminate errors that can delay processing. California also has enhanced its “Business e-file Program,” allowing businesses to electronically file Forms 100 and 100S (for corporations), Form 565 (for partnerships) and Form 568 (for limited liability companies).
Meanwhile, New York State’s department of taxation and finance web site provides information regarding tax law changes in addition to both an annual and quarterly tax filing calendar . In Maryland, small-business owners in need of some free tax help can check out various local taxpayer-service offices sprinkled throughout the state. Maryland business owners can also email their tax questions to email@example.com or call 1-800-MD-TAXES. To check out your state’s small business tax help and e-filing options, go to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ list of department of revenue or taxation web sites from each state plus the District of Columbia.