The DIY-Tax-Filing Checklist that Every Small Business Owner Needs

It’s tax time! If you currently use an accountant to help you with your taxes but you’ve always wondered if you could handle it by yourself, this post is for you.

If you’re an LLC with a single owner, doing your own taxes is actually much simpler than you might expect. You don’t have to worry about a corporate tax return or any W-2’s for employees (assuming that any second shooters, assistants, or freelancers that you use are paid as independent contractors).

Not only will you save a couple bucks on an accountant, but more importantly (in my opinion), doing your own bookkeeping & filing your own taxes makes you feel more in control of your business. It will give you a much better understanding of how income taxes work and how your business is doing on a micro & macro level.

The exception: If your business reaches a level where you no longer have time for the administrative tasks, there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing tasks like bookkeeping or tax filing. If you do decide to hire an accountant or bookkeeper, make sure they specialize in your field, are easy to communicate with, and will be able to send you your info or reports at a moment’s notice.

Here’s a step-by-step checklist of all of the info you’ll need to do your own taxes using TurboTax:

 

TAX FILING CHECKLIST FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS

✶  I recommend using a bookkeeping program to track & categorize your income & expenses. (ex: Quickbooks, GoDaddy Bookkeeping, Wave, Freshbooks, etc.) After importing your bank, credit card, Paypal, Etsy, and any other accounts, the transactions will automatically be logged. Be sure to periodically check that your transactions are categorized correctly. These categories will be important when you’re filling out the “Business Expenses” section on the Schedule C portion of your tax return.

*Remember to start tracking expenses at the beginning of the year!

 

Here are the numbers and files you’ll need for the BUSINESS section:

☐  Your personal SSN & business EIN

☐  All 1099-MISCs you’ve received:

  • These will come from any non-salary/non-employee freelance work you did that exceeded $600. The employers will ask for your EIN/SSN & mailing address.

*You’ll be receiving these throughout the month of January—collect them in a folder until you’re ready to file your taxes.  (If they don’t send you one, that’s their mistake, not yours! Just enter the dollar amount as part of “General Income”.)

☐  General Income—This refers to all other income that you did not report in the 1099-MISC section. (They only require a sum of all of this income, but I like to make sub-categories for weddings, events, portraits, etc. for my own purposes.)

☐  Transportation Expenses:

  • Total miles driven in 2017 (both business and personal)
  • Miles driven for business in 2017 (you can use an app like MileIQ!)
  • Tolls paid during business driving
  • Public transportation expenses (train tickets, subway, PATH, etc.)
  • Parking fees (parking meters, parking garages, etc.)

*I recommend not tracking gas and vehicle expenses and instead taking the IRS’s standard mileage rate of $.535/mile.

☐  All 1099-MISC forms that you’ve issued:

  • These are for any non-salary/non-employee freelancers (second shooters, interns, assistants, etc.) who you paid at least $600 during the year.

*If you haven’t sent these yet, you’ll need to know their full company name (if applicable), EIN/SSN, and mailing address. (You can collect all of this by sending them a W9 to fill out.) You’ll need to fill out a 1099-MISC form for each worker and mail a copy to the IRS and the recipient by January 31st.

☐  The cost of any (non-medical) insurance for your business—this includes liability insurance, equipment insurance, etc.

☐  Advertising expenses—these include Facebook/Instagram ads, brochures, business cards, web hosting/blog expenses, logo design, etc.

☐  Office expenses—such as equipment, stamps, flash drives, software subscriptions, etc.

☐  Supplies—such as boxes, packaging, printer paper, ink, pens, post-its, planner, etc.

☐  Other expenses—these could include PayPal/bank/ATM fees, courses, workshops, client gifts, etc.

☐  Home Office Expenses:

*You can only deduct these if you use part of your home solely for business, such as an office, desk, or studio. Common areas like your kitchen, bathroom, hallways, etc. do not count.

  • Square footage of the whole home
  • Square footage of the business only area of the home
  • Percentage of time you conduct business inside vs. out of the home
  • Expenses relevant to the whole home—mortgage interest, property taxes, condo insurance, utilities, etc.

☐  If you have a SEP IRA set up for your business, it’ll let you know the maximum amount you can contribute to the account (this refers to everything due to be deposited by 4/15/18). The more you contribute, the more your taxes will go down (by roughly 15%).

 

And here’s what you’ll need for the PERSONAL section:

☐  Any 1099-INT’s you’ve received—these come from banks, brokerages, etc.

☐  Any 1099-DIV’s you’ve received—these come from investments, retirement accounts, etc.

*Banks may mail or email these to you, or post them on your account under “Documents”, Tax Documents”, “E-Documents”, etc.

☐  Any additional (personal, not under your business) 1099-MISCs you’ve received for miscellaneous freelance/subcontractor work. (These will be associated with your personal SSN, not your business EIN.)

☐  1099-K—if you’ve received one for third-party network transactions

☐  1099-G—if you’ve received unemployment or local income tax refunds, etc.

☐  Property tax information

*If you entered this info under the “Home Office” section, it’ll carry over the info and give you the proper deduction for the non-business portion of your home.

☐  Any charitable donations

*You’ll need the name of the 501(c)(3) organization and dollar value of the donation.

☐  Any 1098-E or 1098-Ts—if you’ve paid any money towards tuition, student loans, etc.

☐  Any medical expenses

 Estimated Taxes—Each quarter, you should’ve been filing a Form 1040-ES and submitting your estimated taxes. To do this, just take last year’s federal tax due and divide by 4, then pay these equal amounts by the quarterly due dates throughout the year. You can file online at sites like pay1040.com, etc.

*Enter the quantities you paid and the dates submitted. (Don’t include any online credit card fees you might have paid for filing/submitting.

☐  Retirement/Investments—such as a ROTH-IRA. (If you’re financially able to, you should consider contributing the $5500 maximum—it isn’t taxed when you take out the funds when you retire!) (The last date you can contribute for 2017 is 4/15/18.)

☐  Any moving expenses, accountant fees (or the price of the TurboTax software!), etc.

 

That’s it! Not so hard, right?

Now, just e-file the tax return Form 1040 through TurboTax. You can pay any federal tax due via a site like pay1040.com. (There’s a 1.87% fee, but if you have a 2% cash back credit card, it’s worth it!) For any local/state taxes owed, you can mail in the voucher or pay online on the state website.

Happy Filing!

 

Lin Pernille Kristensen

Lin Pernille is a wedding photographer, videographer, and educator based in Jersey City - right at the cusp of North Jersey & New York City. She specializes in vibrant, natural, and cheerful weddings, events, and portraits. She also teaches workshops & courses to photographers & small business owners of all levels. When she's not shooting, editing, or teaching, she's probably redecorating her condo, trying out a new recipe, weightlifting with her boyfriend, or going to a country night with her friends.

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