Monday, December 14, 2009

Final Tips

Self Employment Blog #7

Quick Hitters

Tax Professionals

Owning your own business can be confusing and lonely. Legal and tax obligations appear at any time. If you hire a tax professional, they can help with your tax return and estimates. A good tax professional will also advise you on running your business and work with you to make it more profitable. They also can advise you on legal ways to reduce your taxes. Don’t depend on your friends and family when you are self-employed.

Checking Accounts

It is best to set up a separate business checking account for your business. Pay all your business bills from the business account and all your personal bills from your personal account. Transfer money from the business account to your personal account so your checks won’t bounce

Health Insurance
You can get health insurance from several sources. Chambers of Commerce offer health insurance options and there are various other organizations that offer this benefit. Your payments for health insurance are not deductible on Schedule C as a business expense, but could be deductible on the first page of your Form 1040.
Massachusetts requires that you offer health insurance to your employees if you have more than 10 employees. Most group health plans state that anyone working more than 20 hours a week must be covered under your plan unless they are covered under a spouse’s plan. The expense for covering your employees is deductible on your business tax return.

At some point you may need help in running your business. Often the first person hired is an administrative person to do all the things that keep you away from your clients and customers. You should talk with your tax preparer before you hire someone so that you understand your obligations. I’d recommend a payroll service to take care of all the myriad of details that go along with paying an employee.
Employees are expensive. You must have worker’s compensation insurance, match their taxes, and may even need to cover them with health insurance. Be careful who you hire and that you really need the person to help your business progress.
A quick bit of advice. If you view your employee as an expense rather than an asset, get rid of them and hire someone else.

Sales taxes
Be aware that if you sell a product you must collect and pay sales taxes in most states. Some states, such as Connecticut, have a sales tax on services.

Talk with your CPA before starting a partnership. They are harder to keep together than marriages. Generally partnerships break up because the various partners do not agree on the direction they are going in and how to get there.

In Massachusetts you are required to register with the town or city clerk where you live if you use a fictitious business name. That would be any name other than your own. If you are an LLC or corporation you are required to register. If you do register, you can expect that the city or town will eventually show up at your door and want to tax your business assets. Other states probably have similar requirements.


There are many different pension plans available to business. There is no perfect type for all business. A sole proprietor often wants to use a SEP plan because it is simple and inexpensive. Large companies use the 401(K) plan because it shifts the burden of funding the plan to the employee. There are many alternatives in between. You should discuss the options with your CPA as well as your financial advisor.

There is an old Vermont saying, “The eye of the farmer fattens the stock.” Of course, now there are very few farmers. What this means is that the business will run better when you are there. Too many things can go wrong when you are not there. To minimize this problem, you need to have procedures in place that help your employees understand what is expected of them.

Customer Service
The measure of customer service is not what happens when things go right. It what happens when things go wrong. It is critically important to deal with complaints and problems quickly and effectively. The proper handling of a complaint can turn a problem into an asset. If someone is happy with your service they will tell one person— if they are unhappy they will tell ten.

S Corporations
This is a special tax designation for corporations. A regular corporation pays taxes on its net income.

An S corporation does not pay taxes on its income. It transfers the income to the personal tax returns of the owners. This prevents the double taxation of the income and provides some tax-reducing benefits to corporate owners. You need to make a special election to be allowed this privilege. Check with your CPA as soon as you set up the corporation to see if this is an appropriate thing to do.

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