As a small business owner, taxes are probably one of those tasks you try not to think too much about until you have to. There are steps you can take throughout the year to make your 2022 taxes easier, however, and the sooner you get started, the more smoothly your tax season will go.
1. Determine how frequently you need to pay taxes.
If you’re a small business owner or are self-employed, there is a good possibility you need to pay quarterly estimated taxes. Sadly, many small business owners, freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors fail to recognize this obligation, and even if they fully intend to pay all their taxes at the end of the year, they may face a penalty for failing to keep up with those required payments.
The IRS has compiled a number of great resources for taxpayers with self employment or business income at IRS.gov. Among other topics, it can help you understand your obligations as an independent contractor or small business owner. If you have questions about estimated tax obligations, the IRS website can be a great place to start. If you do have to pay quarterly taxes, you’ll certainly want to factor that into your quarterly, if not monthly, expenses. Typically, quarterly estimated tax payments are due on the fifteenth of April, June, Sept, and January.
In addition, you’ll want to check with your state and local taxing authority to determine other tax forms you may need to file or taxes you need to pay, such as a state tax return, unemployment tax and/or sales tax. Filing to meet tax deadlines can result in expensive penalties so make sure you understand the requirements.
2. Keep separate accounts.
When it comes to finances, it’s always best to separate personal finances from business finances. If you’re still using a personal credit card or personal bank account for business income or expenses, it’s important to stop commingling them.
- Open a business bank account to use for your business income and expenses. Not only will this make accounting easier, it can be essential if you are audited by the IRS. Plus it can help you qualify for small business loans since many lenders require business bank statements to qualify. Find the right business bank account— including free business checking accounts— here.
- Get a business credit card for business purchases. Business credit cards often offer lucrative rewards and some offer 0% introductory APRs which can be helpful for financing purchases in the short term. Finally, most business credit cards help you build good business credit scores. Find the right business credit card here.
3. Keep good records.
Keeping accurate and up-to-date records is probably one of the most valuable habits you can get into, and that’s true for your tax obligations as well as your operational and financial obligations. However, when you’re busy trying to run or grow your business, these activities can easily fall by the wayside.
Set aside time each week or month to catching up with your bookkeeping and financial tasks. If you have a bookkeeper, you can use this time to review your business finances. Bookkeeping software can be invaluable (see suggestions below) but it still requires staying on top of those records.
4. Backup your info.
Keeping good records is great, but having a single copy on a single laptop or in a desk drawer can set you up for disaster. Thanks to cloud technology, storing your information externally is easy. As a bonus, you’ll be able to access your information from anywhere at any time.
Accounting software, like QuickBooks Online, may be cloud-based, but if you’re not planning to implement accounting software, then you may want to consider using Microsoft Office, DropBox, Google Drive, iCloud, or any of the other popular cloud storage platforms available. (Even cloud-based accounting software can fail, so keep a backup regardless of the system you use.)
5. Keep your receipts.
In reality, this should be part of your record keeping, but because it’s different from your payroll and revenue, it’s worth mentioning separately. Meals, miles driven for work, equipment purchases, supplies, etc. may be tax deductible, but if you don’t keep your receipts, you may be out of luck. Capture every receipt, every time.
You can stick these in a desk drawer or mail them to your bookkeeper or accountant, but your best bet is to capture them digitally immediately so you don’t lose them. Use a receipt tracking app, accounting software that includes a similar feature or a credit card with expense management tools.
6. Consult a tax pro.
If you are self-employed as a freelancer, independent contractor or with a side gig, your tax situation may not be too complicated. You may be able to file simple returns on your own using online tax software.
But as your business grows or if you add employees or multiple product lines your needs may become more complex. If you already have an in-house bookkeeper or accounting professional, then you should be able to rely on them to get a lot of this information order, but if you don’t, then you may want to consider consulting a tax professional such as a CPA,, even if it’s only a few times a year. A qualified accountant can help you plan for and adapt to changes in the tax code as well as inform you about tax credits specific to your industry or federal and state tax codes. In the end, meeting with an accountant can save you a lot of headaches and potentially a significant amount of money.
Best Tax Software for 2022
The terms tax software and accounting software are often used interchangeably, especially for small businesses. Generally, though, accounting software will keep your books up to date and provide the information you or your accountant need to file your federal return and/or state income tax returns. Tax preparation software is used to file federal income tax returns with the IRS and will likely include an option for state filing (usually for an additional fee).
You may only need accounting software so your accountant can file your taxes. Or you may need both if you do it all yourself. Find accounting software for your small business here.
It’s helpful to pick a tax software program you’ll stick with, because then you’ll be able to start with your data from the last tax year. The most popular tax software options for small business include:
Tax Act Business is a leading tax filing service. It offers services at different price points for sole proprietors, partnerships, C corporations and S Corporations. (It also offers business and home bundles.) It will walk you through business deductions and offers a 100% accuracy guarantee along with unlimited free support.
Tax Slayer Self Employed can be a good option if you are a small business owner or independent contractor filing both a 1099 and W-2. It offers 1099 and Schedule support including unlimited phone, email, and live chat support. The program will guide you as you enter business income and expenses and help you maximize your tax deductions. You can also get reminders throughout the year so you don’t miss important deadlines.
TurboTax is a very popular tax prep software option for individuals and it also offers TurboTax Self Employed. It is owned by Intuit, the same company that owns Quickbooks. If you use Quickbooks Self Employed you can directly import your data into TurboTax Self Employed to file your taxes. (You don’t have to use Quickbooks to use TurboTax Self Employed, but it can be easier to use both.)
It also offers 1099-NEC snap and upload and lots of other integrations such as Square payment importing and rideshare and UberEats data importing. It also offers tools and support for real estate investors with rental property and investors (including crypto investors).
There are different levels of service available, and not surprisingly the highest level of service is the most expensive.
- TurboTax Self Employed with online customer service support.
- TurboTax Live Self Employed includes unlimited tax advice for your personal and business income and expenses and a final review from a tax expert.
- TurboTax Full Service will match you with a tax expert to do your taxes for you.
H&R Block Self Employed
H&R Block Self Employed is designed to help business owners file their tax returns correctly. It guarantees the maximum tax refund. For an additional fee, you can opt to get help from the Self-Employed Online Assist which gives you access to a tax professional when you need help.
You may decide you’re not comfortable filing yourself, or you may want to spend your time on other activities. If so, 1-800-Accountant can connect you to an accountant for help with questions or filing your taxes.
IRS E-file for Business and Self-Employed
You can use IRS e-file for Employment Tax Returns, Information Returns, Partnerships, Corporations, Estates & Trusts, plus Exempt Organizations. It doesn’t replace tax prep software; instead it allows you file your return electronically and get acknowledgement within 48 hours that your return was received. It also allows you to pay the funds you owe through electronic withdrawal from a bank account or with a credit card. You can ask your accountant to file your business return using IRS e-file or choose it yourself at IRS.gov.
In addition the IRS free file program is a partnership with participating companies that offer free online tax preparation and filing at an IRS partner site for those with an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less. For those with higher AGIs, Free File Fillable Forms are electronic federal tax forms, equivalent to a paper 1040 form, however you should know how to fill out your own tax return.
This article was originally written on December 31, 2019 and updated on February 2, 2023.