WRITTEN BY: SUSAN GUILLORY
If you own a small business, one of the easiest ways to boost your profits is to make sure you are taking all the deductions you are entitled to on your tax return.
This can lower your taxable income and allow you to hold on to more working capital for your business. But U.S tax code for small businesses can be complicated, and some laws are changing for tax year 2021. If you’re not fully aware of the long list of deductions you can claim, follow our guide to tax write-offs for small businesses below.
What Are Small Business Tax Deductions?
Small business tax deductions (or write-offs) are business-related expenses that you can subtract from your taxable income. According to the IRS, business expenses must be both ordinary and necessary to be considered deductible. An expense is “ordinary” if it’s common and accepted in your trade or business. An expense is “necessary” if it’s helpful and appropriate to your business. An expense generally doesn’t have to be indispensable, however, in order to be considered necessary. Many types of qualified business expenses are specifically addressed on the tax return, with a line to enter the deductible amount. Other qualified expenses can be listed separately.
How Do Small Business Tax Deductions Work?
Virtually all businesses have to file a tax return, but how much you’ll pay in taxes generally depends on how much your business has earned after qualified expenses have been deducted. A small business tax deduction is an expense that you can deduct from your income to reduce your federal and state tax bill. If your business brought in $150,000 in revenue, for example, but you had $50,000 in tax-deductible business expenses, you would then only be taxed on $100,000 of revenue, which could save you many thousands of dollars compared to what you’d owe on $150,000.A 100 percent tax deduction is a business expense of which you can claim the entire cost on your income taxes. In some cases, however, you may only be able to claim a portion of the expense on your tax return.
19 Small Business Tax Deductions
Whether you’re just starting a small business or your company is already well-established, here is a list of write-offs that may be available to you. It can be a good idea to consult a tax professional, like a CPA, to find out which of these deductions your small business is eligible to receive.
1. Advertising and Promotion
The cost of advertising and promoting your business is typically 100 percent deductible. This can include costs related to hiring someone to design a business logo, launching your website, buying ad space in print or online media, running a social media marketing campaign or sponsoring an event.
2. Car Expenses
If you use your car for business activities, such as driving to see a client or going to the store to buy office supplies, the costs may be tax-deductible as long as you keep track of the mileage. The deductible mileage rate for 2021 is 56 cents per mile. If you have only one vehicle and use it for both personal and business needs, you will likely need to separate the mileage in order for car expenses to be considered a self-employed tax deduction.
3. Bad Debt
If you loaned money to an employee, client, or supplier and it wasn’t paid back or if you made credit sales to customers that were never paid, you may be able to claim the outstanding debt as a business tax deduction. Typically, you need to have proof that it was indeed a business debt and not a personal loan to write off these debts.
4. Business Meals
Do you take clients (or potential clients) out for meals to discuss business? If so, these costs may be 50 percent tax-deductible. The snacks and meals you buy for your employees are also typically 50 percent deductible. Food provided at company parties is generally 100 percent deductible. In order to be eligible, food costs typically need to be reasonable — extravagant meals likely won’t qualify.
5. Business Insurance
You likely have at least one type of insurance coverage for your company and/or your staff. That might be workers’ compensation, liability, property, or data breach insurance. If the insurance policy is considered ordinary and necessary, you can typically write off 100 percent of your premiums.
6. Business Loan Interest
If you’ve taken out loans for business purposes, including lines of credit and mortgages on business real estate or if you’ve used business credit cards, the interest you pay on those loans may be 100 percent tax-deductible.
7. Contractors and Freelancers
If you hire freelancers or independent contractors to help in your business, you may be able to deduct their fees as a business expense. You may also want to keep in mind that if you pay a contractor $600 or more during the tax year, the IRS typically requires you to submit a Form 1099-NEC to both the IRS and the contractor.
If you invest in furthering your knowledge and expertise to give you a leg up in the market, or provide your employees with educational benefits, you may be able to write these costs off as business expenses. Tax-deductible education expenses can include classes and workshops intended to improve skills in your field, subscriptions to professional publications, attending industry seminars and webinars, and getting business certifications.
9. Equipment Depreciation
Depreciation is a way of spreading the cost of business equipment or assets over time. It essentially measures how much an asset’s value has been used up or exhausted during the year. Items that can be depreciated by small businesses typically include computers and other office equipment, machinery, office furniture, and business vehicles.
If you give clients and prospects gifts as part of your business, the IRS generally permits you to deduct up to $25 per person per year. Any amount you spend over the $25 limit is not deductible. A gift given to a member of a client’s family is also typically looked at as a gift to the client unless you have a personal connection to the family member.
11. Home Office
Do you run your business out of your home? If so, you may be able to deduct expenses tied to creating and maintaining that workspace. To qualify for the home-office deduction, you generally must utilize part of your home regularly and exclusively for business. The office does not need to be in a separate room, but it must be in a space solely designated to work and business operations. You can typically deduct home office expenses in one of two ways: simplified (in which you multiply a specified rate by the square footage you use for your business) and regular (which involves you itemizing expenses for home office use, including mortgage interest, rent, insurance, utilities and depreciation).
12. Legal Fees
If your business has incurred legal expenses, such as hiring a business lawyer or going to court, you are generally able to deduct them as a business expense. Even if you go to court and do not win the case, those legal fees will likely qualify for a deduction. The legal expenses incurred, however, typically must be considered ordinary and necessary to the business in order to be considered a tax write-off.
13. Office Supplies
Every pen, sheet of paper, and toner cartridge you purchase for your business can typically be written off on your taxes. For supplies to be deductible, they generally need to be considered essential to running and maintaining a functional office. It can be a good idea to keep receipts and categorize these small business expenses as you go. This can make it easier to file your taxes at the end of the year.
14. Professional Fees
This category includes expenses incurred hiring professionals like bookkeepers, accountants, and tax preparers for your business. Professional fees may also include any expenses related to obtaining or maintaining professional licenses or memberships in an industry organization.
If you pay rent for an office, warehouse, retail space or other types of business property, that monthly rent expense may be fully tax-deductible. If you deduct rent as a business expense, you will typically not be able to take the home office deduction as well.
16. Salaries and Employee Benefits
As long as they’re not for you or other business partners, employee salaries and benefits are generally considered write-offs for small businesses. This category typically includes employee’s wages, paid time off, commissions and bonuses, as well as employer-sponsored life insurance or retirement account contributions.
17. Startup Expenses
If you started your business in the latest tax year, you may be able to write off up to $5,000 of the expenses you invested in launching. Startup expenses generally include any costs incurred to create or buy the business, such as expenses related to marketing, travel, training, forming a corporation or partnership, and renovating a commercial space.
18. Phone and Internet
Generally, what you spend to provide your business with internet and phone service can be written off to lower tax liability. If you use the phone and internet for a mix of work and personal reasons, however, you can typically only write off the percentage of the cost that goes toward your business use.
If you travel for work, such as to visit clients or attend industry events, your travel expenses may be considered business tax write-offs. This can include transportation (flight, rental car, train, parking and tolls), hotel stays and meals.
One of the simplest ways to reduce your income tax bill is to ensure you’re claiming all of the tax deductions available to your small business. Understanding which business expenses qualify can help you avoid overpaying come tax time and also help guide your business decisions throughout the year.