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Tax Preparation for the Small Business Owner

At The National Association for the Self-Employed, we know that tax season can be a hassle for independent contractors, freelancers, and small business owners. You don’t usually have the resources to hire seasoned accountants, so you end up taking precious time out of your busy day to do it yourself. But never fear, NASE is here to guide you and your small business through the process with the essential knowledge you’ll need to navigate your 2018 Tax Year.

What Forms Do Small Business Owners Have to Fill Out?
If you are self-employed via your small business, you will need to file the following IRS forms:
Schedule C—(Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship) form)
 - Form 1040—(U.S. Individual Income Tax Return)
 - Schedule SE—Self-Employment Tax

The first three forms should be filed together by the 15th day of the tax year, which in this case would be April 15th.

You may be able to bypass the Schedule C form and fill out the shorter version of it, called Schedule C-EZ. To qualify for this privilege, your business must have had expenses less than $5,000, no inventory any time of the year, no net loss, and used the cash method of accounting. There are a few other qualifiers that you must adhere to, which you can check out here on the IRS site.

What Forms Do Independent Contractors Have to Fill Out?

The main form that all independent contractors need to fill out is a W-9, or “Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification” form. As opposed to employees, who are taxed based on wages and fill out a W-4, freelancers are taxed based on income minus business expenses.

Tip: If you work with a company for an extended period, you are considered a contractor, whereas freelancers typically form short-term relationships with their clients. In the eyes of the IRS, it doesn’t really matter which one you are, primarily. You’ll need to fill out that W-9 no matter what.

What About LLCs?
A Limited Liability Company (LLC), though similar to a small business owner, sometimes has to follow different instructions in order to correctly complete their tax filing, depending on what kind of LLC it is.

If the only member of your LLC is an individual, you need to report your income and expenses on Form 1040 and Schedule C. If you need to report income or loss from rental real estate, royalties, partnerships, S corporations, estates, trusts, and residual interests in REMICs, you will also need to fill out a Schedule E. If you need to report farm income and expenses, you will also need to fill out a Schedule F.

A single-member LLC whose member is a corporation will need to report income and expenses on that corporation’s Form 1120.

A multi-member LLC usually needs to file a Form 1065, also known as a partnership return. If you decide, however, to file your multi-member LLC as a corporation, you will need to fill out the Form 8832, which is not necessary for a partnership.

Whichever forms you deem are appropriate for your LLC, make sure that you continue to file that way in the future.

What Are Quarterly Payments?
In addition to these annual tax forms, you want to look into filing quarterly payments, which help you distribute your tax payment responsibilities throughout the year. This is often more manageable for small businesses than making one big payment annually. In order to make these payments, you’ll first need to calculate what those payments are. Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals will help you figure whether you are required to make quarterly payments and what those numbers will look like.

Once you’ve calculated your quarterly payments, you can pay electronically through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or file using the blank vouchers that come with your 1040-ES. If your income changes significantly at any point during the year, it will likely alter what you owe each quarter, and you can adjust accordingly.

After you have set up your quarterly payment estimates, you will need to file Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, on the following dates: April 30, July 31, October 31, and January 31.

What Taxes Will I Have to Pay?
If you own a sole proprietorship, that means your business is owned and operated by one single person—you. It also means that you are self-employed, so you will need to pay a self-employment tax (SE tax) along with your personal income tax. The SE tax makes up for the fact that, unlike wage earners, you don’t have money coming out of your paychecks and going towards Social Security and Medicare. Instead, you are taxed for Social Security and Medicare through the SE form.

In addition to the SE tax, you will need to pay income tax on your businesses’ profits and any other source of revenue. The amount that you are taxed will depend on how much money you make and what tax bracket that puts you in. Your taxable income is your gross annual income minus expenses and deductions.

Am I Ready For April?
The best way to prepare for tax season is to do it throughout the entire year. Being in the habit of keeping thorough records on a daily basis is the only way to keep tax-season-anxiety at bay. But the likelihood that you’re as much of an effective bookkeeper as you are a small business owner is probably slim, so we’ve compiled a guide to organizing the elements you’ll need to file your taxes.

One way to expedite this process is to use a program like Quickbooks that takes your information regarding profits, losses, expenses, etc. and organizes it in a way that will be useful when filing your taxes. They even have a specific program that is designed particularly for small business. If you don’t already have one of these programs set up, they usually have great sales leading up to April 15th.

If you want to have complete, autonomous control over how your data is organized, you can do so manually. This graphic made by Fit Small Business outlines an effective way to stay on top of your assets, expenses, income, and other important information:

Keeping organized throughout the year will save you time sifting through loose papers and receipts or trying to track down old files on your computer when tax season rolls around. Being disciplined about this organizational upkeep will give you the confidence to tackle your taxes like a seasoned accountant.

Changes in 2019
Tax law is generally pretty straightforward, but there are usually a few changes made each year that it’s helpful to be aware of. Here is a list of policies that have changed from 2018 to 2019 according to the IRS.

 - Forms 1040A and 1040EZ are no longer available. You just need to fill out the standard 1040.
 - Because April 15, 2019, is Patriots’ Day and April 16, 2019, is Emancipation Day, individuals who live in Maine and Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019, to file their 2018 Form 1040.
 - The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-74) repealed the electing large partnership rules for tax years beginning after 2017, so Form 1065-B can’t be filed for tax years beginning after 2017.

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