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

April 10 Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during March, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

April 10 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of March.

April 14 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of March.

April 15 Individuals
File a 2014 income tax return (Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 6 month extension of time to file the return, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. For more information, see Form 4868. Then, file Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ by October 15.

April 15 Individuals
If you are not paying your 2015 income tax through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax during the year that way), pay the first installment of your 2015 estimated tax. Use Form 1040ES.

April 15 Household Employers
If you paid cash wages of $1,800 or more in 2014 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H - Details

April 15 Partnerships
File a 2014 calendar year return (Form 1065) - Details

April 15 Partnerships
Electing large partnerships: File a 2014 calendar year return (Form 1065-B) - Details

April 15 Corporations
Deposit the first installment of estimated income tax for 2015 - Details

April 15 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

April 15 Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

April 15 Household employers
If you paid cash wages of $1,900 or more in 2014 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H (Form 1040). If you are required to file a federal income tax return (Form 1040), file Schedule H (Form 1040) with the return and report any household employment taxes. Report any federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on Schedule H (Form 1040) if you paid total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2013 or 2014 to household employees. Also, report any income tax you withheld for your household employees.

April 27 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of March.

April 29 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of April.

April 30 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the first quarter of 2015. 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 May 11 to file the return.

April 30 Federal unemployment tax.
Deposit the tax owed through March if more than $500.

April 30 Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the first quarter of 2015.

April 30 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during March.

April 30 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in March.

View More Tax Dates