Eight ways to keep your business tax healthy

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(ARA) — The U.S. was home to 27.5 million small businesses in 2009 according to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. To succeed, many business owners take on multiple duties, from executive and operational, human resources, to marketing and information technology.

Among the more challenging responsibilities is taxes. "Thankfully, you don't have to be an accountant to be tax-savvy," says Jessi Dolmage, spokesperson for TaxACT. "Just knowing where to go for information, keeping secure records and using robust tax software helps maximize business tax savings."

* Budget for tax deadlines to avoid cash flow disruption and meet deadlines to avoid penalties. Most self-employed people should complete Form 1040-ES to calculate and pay quarterly estimated tax payments. Corporations must also pay estimated payments if they expect to owe taxes of $500 or more. Businesses with employees are subject to different forms and deadlines based on business type and revenue, - i.e. Forms 940, 941 and 944. Corporations and S-corporations must file annual 1120 and 1120S tax returns by March 15.

* Define and pay labor properly. Employees require different paperwork than independent contractors. Withhold income, Medicare and Social Security taxes from employee paychecks and pay Medicare, Social Security and unemployment taxes for them. Conversely, issue independent contractors a 1099-MISC form if payments total $600 or more in a calendar year.

* Get familiar with small business tax benefits. For 2011, the deduction for business start-up costs is worth twice as much and phases out at a higher amount. Legislation also extended the increased deduction amount, phase-out limit and definition of Section 179 property. First-year bonus depreciation was also extended. For property placed in service after Sept. 8, 2010, and before Jan. 1, 2012, bonus depreciation is 100 percent. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 included a deduction for health insurance premiums when calculating self-employment tax. Self-employed individuals can deduct 100 percent of health insurance costs for themselves, their spouse and dependents. Visit irs.gov and click on "Businesses" for information about these and other business tax breaks.

* Remember tax law changes often. Stay in the know by signing up for small business e-mail updates at irs.gov.

* Do your own business and personal taxes. Software breaks down complicated tax law and guides you through your return while completing the forms. TaxACT offers low-cost software for partnerships, S-corporations and corporations. For 1040 individual returns, use TaxACT Free Federal or Deluxe Edition to file Schedule C for sole proprietorships.

* Keep financial records current. Updated records translate into timely financial statements, which make for easier tax preparation. Scan or keep original receipts for updating monthly books or returning items. They may also be helpful in the event of an Internal Revenue Service audit.

* Track deductible expenses. Whether you deduct actual vehicle expenses or use the standard mileage rate (51 cents per mile in 2011), keep detailed documentation including mileage and purpose. Detailed logs should also be kept for travel expenses and business use of your home. Documenting takes time and effort, but the deductions are worth it.

* Protect information from theft and data loss. Shred sensitive data before recycling and never share financial information with unauthorized personnel. Scan important documents and keep backup copies on a password-protected and secure external drive or cloud setting. Keep digital photographs of valued assets.

For more business tax tips and information, visit www.irs.gov. Learn more about TaxACT at www.taxact.com.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

February 2 Individuals who must make estimated tax payments
If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2014 by February 2. Filing your return and paying any tax due by February 2 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by February 2, file and pay your tax by April 15.

February 2 All Employers
Give your employees their copies of Form W2 for 2014. If an employee agreed to receive Form W2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting.

February 2Payers of gambling winnings
If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W2G.

February 2 Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2014 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

February 2 Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2014 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2014. If your undeposited tax is $500 r less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014 - Details

February 2Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the fourth quarter of 2014.

February 2 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during December 2014.

February 2Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in December 2014.

February 10Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2014 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer - Details

February 11Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of January.

February 13Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of January.

February 17Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) - Details

February 17Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year - Details

February 17All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014 - Details

February 17Publication 509 (2015)
All payments reported on Form 1099S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. Substitute payments reported in box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in box 14 of Form 1099MISC.

February 17Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 17Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 18All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2014, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 25Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of January.

February 27Regular method taxes.
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of February.

View More Tax Dates