Small business tax deductions can trim your tax bill

One of the best ways to reduce your overall tax bill is through small business tax deductions. While some might be well known, there may be a few obscure business expense deductions to know about to help you reduce what you owe.

We’ll outline the common small business tax deductions for 2020 – itemized with a list of deductible business expenses in this post.

What is tax deductible for a small business? 

Often our clients will ask, “what is tax deductible for a small business?” Although it’s not a one-size fits all scenario (as we’ll explain below), we’ll cover a range of potential tax-deductible business expenses here that can lower your tax bill.

Don’t want to tackle tax deductions alone? Get help tracking small business tax breaks and your small business tax questions from the team at Block Advisors.

When do you know it’s a tax-deductible business expense?

Before we share a list of deductible business expenses, we have an important message to share. To know how to deduct business expenses from your small business tax return, you should have a good understanding of what is considered a business expense in the eyes of the IRS.

Frankly, it’s important to not confuse personal expenses with your business expenses. A business expense should be both necessary to the function of the business and ordinary to the business:

  • An ordinary business expense must qualify as something commonly accepted in your industry.
  • A necessary business expense must be considered useful and relevant to your business industry.

1 – Advertising and promotions

Advertising and promotional activities are defined as a small business expense incurred to help boost sales and revenue. You can deduct reasonable advertising expenses directly related to your small business. Think online advertising costs as well as print – anything to spread the word about your business qualifies.

Note: You can’t deduct activities related to influence political legislation, such as lobbying.

2 – Business meals

Believe it or not, meals are an allowable small business tax deduction. In 2021 and 2022, there’s an exception to the typical 50% write-off. Specifically, you can deduct 100% of your bill at most restaurants and bars as long as:

  • The meal is ordinary and necessary to your business
  • One of the business owners or an employee is present
  • You’re meeting with a business contact – like a contractor, vendor, or client
  • The meal isn’t deemed extravagant or lavish

The law will go back to its usual 50% in 2023. 

3 – Business use of your car

The IRS states that if your car is used solely for your small business, you can deduct its full cost of ownership and operation. But, if your vehicle is used for both business and personal use, you can only deduct the cost of the business use.

Use the standard mileage rate times the amount of miles you drive to calculate the business use of your car to arrive at the mileage deduction you can take. Track and calculate your mileage using Everlance.

4 – Business travel 

Traveling for work? This is another small business tax deduction. If you’re traveling away from where you typically conduct business, you can deduct the expenses that relate to your business.

Learn more about business travel tax deductions.

5 – Business insurance

Business insurance policies are a business expense deduction. You can deduct the full cost of insurance as it relates to your business. Common business insurance plans small business owners buy include general liability, property, casualty, and business interruption insurance.

6 – Cost of goods sold

If your small business makes and resells products, you should value your inventory at the beginning and end of each tax year to figure out the cost of goods sold.

Raw materials, storage, labor costs, and factory overhead all factor into figuring out the cost of goods sold. There are a few rules about cost of goods sold, however. One of the main ones is this: if you include expenses in the cost of goods sold, you can’t deduct it.

7 – Contract labor

Did you know that hiring contractors (i.e. or those paid via Form 1099) is a small business tax break? Say you’re a self-employed graphic designer and you recently come into more work than you can take on yourself. If you sub-contract the work to another graphic designer, you can actually write off the cost of their wages on your own taxes.

8 – Depreciation

You can deduct depreciation of business property as a small business. You usually can’t deduct the full price of an asset the year it was purchased, but you can deduct the cost over the course of a few years. This is known as depreciation and you should use Form 4562 to claim depreciation deductions.

9 – Home office expenses

Many people wonder about the benefit of home offices from a tax standpoint. While employees can no longer deduct home office expenses, this isn’t the case for small business owners. Home office expenses like real estate tax, depreciation, dwelling insurance, equipment, and a percentage of your mortgage interest can be deducted to offset your small business’ taxable income.

Learn about the best practices on taking the home office deduction.

10 – Taxes

Small business owners have a higher tax burden than individual filers due to self-employment taxes, but there are more small business tax deductions available as well. One of the things you can deduct is taxes.

Generally, the IRS permits you to deduct some local, state, and federal tax related to your business as a small business expense. Here are some examples of allowable tax write-offs:

  • Some business entities can deduct state taxes.
  • If you have employees, you can deduct payroll taxes.
  • You can deduct real estate taxes if your business owns property.
  • You can deduct excise tax if it’s collected.
  • You can deduct business vehicle registration tax if your car is used for business purposes.
  • You can deduct the cost of tax preparation.

11 – Professional services and legal fees

Your small business may require help from other services or professionals as it grows and evolves. In this case, the IRS allows you to deduct professional services and legal fees.

12 – Retirement contributions

Tax-qualified retirement accounts owned by a small business owner can be deducted. You can deduct your IRA contributions from your overall net profit.

For Schedule C business owners, retirement contributions are based on your net profit from Schedule C or K-1 (Form 1065).

Learn more about retirement contributions and your taxes as a small business owner.

13 – Start-up costs 

When you start a business, you may have heaps of one-time expenditures. Luckily, these costs can be tax-deductible. You can deduct up to $10,000 of business start-up costs and up to $5,000 of organizational costs. The deduction is reduced if the expenses exceed specified limits and any remaining expenses can be amortized.

Common start-up costs include:

  • Advertising and promotional fees
  • Cost of acquiring an existing business
  • Cost of wages associated with training employees or contractors
  • Customer surveys
  • Licensing and permitting fees
  • Market and product research
  • Office rent and utilities paid prior to your business launch
  • Professional and legal fees

14 – Qualified business income 

Have you heard about the qualified business income deduction? It’s a beneficial deduction that offers a tax reprieve by providing a deduction of up to 20% of a business’s qualified business income. Qualified business income includes:

  • Income connected with running a trade or business
  • Income from partnerships (other than publicly traded partnerships), S corporations, and sole proprietorships.
  • Qualified items of business income, gain, deduction, and loss from the sale of goods or services allowed in calculating taxable income for the year

A separate component of the qualified business income deduction covers:

  • Qualified publicly traded partnership income

Related: Net operating loss

A net operating loss (NOL) happens when a small business has more tax deductions than taxable income. In fact, NOL is a technical word for negative income. Get more details on business losses.

Best practices for tax-deductible business expenses

Tracking your business expenses should be a top priority for small business owners. Here’s why:

  1. It’s hard to backtrack weeks or months, so you’ll spend more time and energy – and will have potentially less accuracy doing so.
    1. You could easily miss a deduction if you don’t do it on the go.

Luckily, Block Advisors is here to help. We have in-person bookkeeping services and online bookkeeping options to keep you on track, ensure your books are accurate and up-to-date.

How to claim business expense deductions

The tax forms you use to deduct business expenses depends on the type of business entity you formed.

  • Sole proprietor or single-member LLC, should use Schedule C.
  • S corporations should fill out Form 1120S. Plus, you should report your share of income and expenses on Schedule E.

Remember: tax forms have different due dates. Get help with determining when business tax deadlines are.

Help for small business tax deductions for 2020

While small business owners have many strengths, the tax and bookkeeping aspects of their business may not be one of them. Luckily, we’re here to help! Whether you’re looking for small business tax breaks, bookkeeping, payroll, or general small business tax guidance, we’re here for you.

Our tax professionals are well versed in these tax nuances – plus you have the help of experience bookkeeping and payroll experts as well.

Get help from the Block Advisors small business certified tax professionals to keep your business on track so you can focus on what you love. 

Connect with a tax pro near you now.

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