The IRS requires that deductible business expenses must be both ordinary and necessary for business operations. If an expense is common to your trade or business, it is an ordinary expense. A necessary expense is helpful and appropriate to the operations of your business or trade. Deducting these qualifying expenses lowers your income tax bill. Even common business expense deductions may not apply to your specific small business. Working with a CPA from Simma Flottemesch & Orenstein will help you hone in on what expenses apply to your business, and how to make the most of these deductions.
Common small business deductions
Advertising: 100 percent of costs associated with advertising and promotion of your business, including business cards, are deductible.
Business meals: business-related meals that can be supported with proper records (amount, date, location and business relationship of other diner(s)) are 50 percent deductible. *Tip: on the back of the receipt, write down the purpose of the meal, who you dined with and what you discussed.
Business insurance: business insurance costs can be deducted on Schedule C.
Car: if your vehicle is used solely for business purposes, all the costs associated with its operation can be deducted. More commonly, vehicles are used for business and personal use, in which case only the costs associated with business-related usage can be deducted. When you claim mileage for business use of your vehicle, there are standard mileage deductions that change yearly, or you can deduct actual costs. In 2018, the standard mileage rate was 54.5 cents per mile, while that amount has increased to 58 cents per mile in 2019.
Charitable contributions: both corporations and individuals can deduct charitable contributions to qualified organizations on their tax returns.
Depreciation: large business items depreciate over their lifetime of use. Higher priced items with a longer life of use should be depreciated, rather than deducted upfront.
Education: costs associated with training or improving the knowledge and skills of you and your staff add value to your business and are fully deductible. These costs, for classes, seminars, subscriptions, books, workshops, etc., must increase your expertise in your current field, not qualify you for a different career.
Home office: the IRS has standardized this deduction—you can deduct $5 per square foot of your home that is used for your business. This amount maxes out at 300 square feet. It’s important that this area of your home qualify under three areas: exclusivity, regularity and precedence. This means that the area must be used exclusively for business, be used regularly for business operations or responsibilities, and be used as the principal place for conducting important business activities. A portion of renter’s or homeowner’s insurance can also be included in this deduction.
Insurance premiums: whether your business owner’s policy covers malpractice, flood insurance, cyber liability coverage, business continuation insurance or all of the above, the costs are fully deductible.
Interest and bank fees: interest that is incurred on business loans or credit cards, in addition to fees and bank charges on your business bank accounts, can be claimed on Schedule C.
Legal and professional fees: the fees charged by Simma Flottemesch & Orenstein to prepare your tax return are included in these deductible fees. These fees would also include any bookkeeping fees charged by a bookkeeper or bookkeeping service.
Medical expenses: as a small business, you may qualify to claim a tax credit up to 50 percent of premiums paid for employees, which would be a better tax break than a deduction. If you are self-employed and paying your own health insurance premiums, those costs are generally deductible. However, there are some exceptions, like if your spouse has an employer plan you could opt to participate in. Consult your tax professional to determine how this deduction applies to your specific situation.
Rent and utilities on business property: if your business operates in a rented space, the cost of renting the facility is fully deductible. Additional deductible utilities for the operation of this space include electricity, internet and phone charges (mobile or landline).
Salaries and wages: what you pay employees for salaries, wages, bonuses, commissions and taxable fringe benefits are deductible business expenses. Owners do not qualify as employees.
Supplies: business office supplies, furniture and other equipment are all deductible. It’s important to keep all receipts related to the purchase of these items. In today’s digital age, office electronics can also be included. Think of your laptops, tablets, smartphones and the software used to operate them in relation to business activities.
Travel expenses: a business trip will only qualify as business travel if it is ordinary, necessary and away from the city or area in which you conduct business. Travel must last longer than one normal day’s work. Potentially, the deductible expenses from this travel may include transportation-related costs, meals, lodging, parking, tolls, tips, business calls, etc.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a starting point for determining what business expenses are deductible on your return. Every scenario is different, and your tax professional will determine which deductions you qualify for. It’s important to keep records throughout the year of these expenses.