Tax Deductions for Starting a Business

There can be many benefits to taking care of your finances and knowing exactly how tax deductions work. Whether it’s maximizing returns, protecting your personal assets, or complying with regulations to keep your business running smoothly, your diligence always pays off in the end.

But how does one differentiate their expenses for tax deductions for starting a business? Read on to learn the essentials of what you can and can’t deduct from your taxes and how to claim your tax write-offs for your tax return. 

Allowable Tax Deductions for Starting a Business

One of the toughest things about running a business is record keeping, and it can be a real hassle to keep track of these reports, especially if you’re not sure what qualifies as deductible. Below, you’ll find a list of allowable tax deductions for your startup business.

1. Creating the Business

When you set up your business, you can claim certain initial costs which can be claimed as tax deductions. These include expenses for market research, analyzing the potential of a business idea, and exploring potential markets. Legal fees for setting up a business, e.g. for drawing up Articles of Organization or founding a company, are also deductible. 

2. Launching the Business

Expenses incurred during the start-up phase of your business are tax-deductible. These include advertising and promotional costs for opening, initial inventory purchases, hiring and training employees, and expenses for procuring suppliers or vendors. Keep accurate records of these expenses as they form the basis of your business operations and are crucial for tax deductions.

3. Business Organization Costs

These include the costs of forming a legal entity, such as a corporation or LLC. Expenses for organizational meetings, state incorporation fees, and the cost of legal services in setting up the business structure are deductible. However, these costs must be incurred before the end of the first tax year and can be deducted up to a certain limit, although any amount in excess of this can be amortized over several years.

4. Office Expenses

Office costs are deductible for new businesses. These include rent for office space, utilities, office supplies, and equipment such as computers and printers. If you have a home office that meets the IRS criteria, a portion of your home expenses, such as mortgage interest or rent, utilities, and insurance, may also be deductible. It is important that you make a clear distinction between personal and business use in order to claim these deductions correctly.

5. Travel and Vehicle Expenses

For business travel, expenses like airfare, hotel stays, meals, and transportation are tax-deductible. When using a vehicle for business, you can choose between deducting the actual expenses (like gas, maintenance, and insurance) or using the standard mileage rate set by the IRS. To claim vehicle expenses, you must keep a detailed log of business-related trips, including dates, mileage, and purposes of the trips.

6. Employee Pay

Salaries, wages, bonuses, or commissions paid to employees are deductible business expenses. This also includes contributions to pension plans and other benefits for your employees. However, payments to sole proprietors, partners, and LLC members are not considered wages and are therefore not deductible in this category.

7. Technology and Software

Expenses for technology and software that are directly used for your business operations are also deductible. This includes the cost of purchasing or licensing software, cybersecurity measures, and online service subscriptions. These expenses can often be deducted in the year they are incurred, depending on the cost and type of software or technology.

For more potential write-offs for your business, check out our article on 30 Creative Tax Deductions You Should Know.

Startup Costs that You Cannot Claim as Tax Deductions

Understanding what you can save on is crucial, but it’s equally vital to know what you cannot claim as tax deductions. And being aware of non-deductible expenses is important, as attempting to claim them can lead to penalties and potentially serious consequences for manipulating the tax system.

1. Personal Living Expenses

Personal living expenses are not deductible as business expenses. This includes costs such as home rent or mortgage, personal vehicle expenses, and non-business meals. Even if you work from home, only a portion of your home expenses that are exclusively used for business purposes can be deducted. 

2. Capital Expenditures

Capital expenditures, such as the purchase of property, buildings, or major equipment, are not deductible as business expenses. Instead, these are capitalized and depreciated over their useful life. While they represent a significant investment in your business, their deduction is spread over several years rather than being claimed in the year of purchase.

3. Government Fines and Penalties

Fines and penalties you pay to the government for breaking the law are not deductible. This includes things like traffic tickets, tax penalties, and other fines. As a policy, the IRS does not allow businesses to deduct these expenses because they are considered a consequence of violating legal obligations.

4. Political Contributions

Contributions to political parties, campaigns, or candidates are not deductible as business expenses. This applies to both direct cash contributions and the value of promotional activities or advertising in support of political causes. The IRS explicitly excludes political contributions as legitimate business expenses.

5. Entertainment Expenses

While meals may be partially deductible under certain circumstances, general entertainment expenses are no longer deductible. This includes costs for activities like taking clients to sporting events, theater tickets, or golf outings. The IRS eliminated the deduction for most entertainment expenses in recent tax law changes, emphasizing that only directly business-related meals can be considered.

6. Clothing and Grooming Costs

Everyday clothing and grooming costs, even if required for your business, are generally not deductible. This includes business suits, haircuts, and makeup expenses. Unless the clothing is a uniform or specialized protective gear that is not suitable for everyday wear, it’s considered a personal expense and is not deductible.

When to Claim Tax Deductions for Starting a Business?

The optimal time to claim these deductions depends on when your business officially begins operations. According to IRS guidelines, a business is considered active when it is fully operational and ready to carry on its intended trade or business.

Once your business becomes active, you are eligible to claim the start-up deduction. In the first year, these deductions should be reported on your business tax form. In subsequent years, if you chose to write off the start-up costs, you must use Form 4562, to claim the amortized deduction.

It is important to consider the financial state of your business when deciding when to claim these deductions. If your business is likely to report a loss in the initial years, it may be more beneficial to amortize the deductions over several years. This strategy can help offset future profits, thereby reducing taxable income over time. 

Keep in mind that once a depreciation schedule is chosen, it cannot be altered, so it’s advisable to consult a tax advisor before making this decision.

How to Claim Write-Offs for Starting a Business on Your Tax Return?

Now that you have a better idea of how tax deductions work, let’s go over how to claim tax write-offs for your tax return. It can seem daunting at first, but with a clear, step-by-step process, it becomes much more manageable. Here’s how to do it:

1. Determine Eligible Expenses: Before you submit your tax return, you should compile a list of all your start-up costs. Allowable expenses include, for example, market research, travel costs associated with starting your business, advertising, legal fees, and any other costs incurred before the business is launched.

2. Organize Your Documentation: Keep detailed records of all expenses, including receipts, bills, and bank statements. This documentation is crucial for substantiating your claims if the IRS requires proof.

3. Fill Out the Correct Tax Forms: Depending on your business structure, use the appropriate form. Sole proprietors and single-member LLCs use Schedule C attached to their personal tax returns. Partnerships and S corporations use Form 1065 or 1120-S, respectively. Remember to report the deduction on Form 4562 if you choose to amortize.

4. Claim the Deduction in the Right Tax Year: You can claim the start-up cost deduction in the year your business becomes active. For instance, if you started incurring expenses in 2023 but didn’t start operations until 2024, you would claim these deductions on your 2024 tax return.

5. Consult With a Tax Professional: Especially for complex situations or significant expenses, consider consulting with a tax professional. They can offer advice tailored to your specific situation and help ensure you’re maximizing your tax benefits while staying compliant.

Key Takeaways for Your Business Tax Strategy

Business expenses can quickly add up. And as a new business, the last thing you want to do is neglect your finances. If you know what you can deduct from tax, and if you make sure your tax return is filed properly, you can claim back a lot of your business expenses.

When it comes to maximizing returns and keeping an organized record of your finances, doola is your go-to solution. At doola, we understand how time-consuming and confusing it can be. So, if you’re looking for a one-stop-shop solution to your bookkeeping needs, check out our easy-to-use bookkeeping software. 

It can connect multiple bank accounts to manage all transactions, update you regularly on any deadlines, and keep all your records in one place. Don’t let tax deductibles and legal know-how stop you from running a thriving business. Reach out today and get started in under 10 minutes!

FAQs

Are business insurance premiums tax deductible?

Yes, business insurance premiums are tax deductible. They are considered necessary business expenses as they protect your business from various risks, thereby qualifying for deductions.

Can I deduct the cost of hiring employees for my startup?

Absolutely! The costs associated with hiring employees, including wages, benefits, and training expenses, are deductible. These are considered ordinary and necessary expenses for running a business.

Are expenses for inventory and raw materials tax deductible for a startup?

Yes, the costs of inventory and raw materials are deductible. However, how they are deducted depends on your accounting method: either as cost of goods sold under accrual accounting or as expenses when sold under cash accounting.

Can I deduct the cost of business meals and entertainment?

The cost of business meals is partially deductible (usually 50%), provided they are not lavish and have a clear business purpose. However, under current tax laws, most entertainment expenses are no longer deductible.

Are expenses for business-related subscriptions and memberships tax deductible?

Yes, expenses for business-related subscriptions and memberships are tax deductible. This includes industry-specific publications, software subscriptions, and professional organization memberships, as they are considered necessary for staying informed and connected in your field.

doola's website is for general information purposes only and doesn't provide official law or tax advice. For tax or legal advice we are happy to connect you to a professional in our network! Please see our terms and privacy policy. Thank you and please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions.

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