The deadline for small-business owners to file tax returns will be here soon: April 15 if you’re self-employed or in a partnership that uses the calendar year. (If your business is structured as a corporation that uses the calendar year, you had a March 15 due date). Time is running out, and if you don’t file your taxes on time, you know the IRS can come after you with penalties and interest charges. But if your return has errors, you could also face stiff fines.
Ideally, you have a great relationship with a CPA or enrolled agent (a tax expert who’s certified by the IRS), and that person has been helping you plan all year. If so, putting together your return will be no big deal. But if you’re like the rest of us, you probably have some last-minute questions that need to be answered to ensure your return is error-free. The good news is there are places where you can find help fast. Here are four to try.
1. A local college or university
Many schools have small-business development centers on their campuses, and these centers offer general tax and financial help to local business owners. The center at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, for example, gives one-on-one advice to entrepreneurs in a pinch. It also offers classes, including an IRS Small Business Tax Workshop.
However, the idea is not to just engage business owners in a quick conversation or class, but instead to build relationships that help local companies succeed long-term, says Elisa Waldman, a consultant at the school’s Kansas Small Business Development Center.
“The thrust of what we do is individual consulting, and we meet with business owners as they progress through the life cycle of their business,” Waldman says.
For more-specialized help, the center keeps on hand a resource list of local accountants, bookkeepers and tax experts who have expressed interest in serving area small businesses, she says.
Another option is to visit a community enterprise clinic at your local college or university. Many law schools offer these centers to help low-wealth small-business owners with legal and tax questions. If you’re starting out and can’t afford to pay the hundreds of dollars an hour that a personalized tax or law pro might charge, this is a good option. If you’re a freelancer or independent contractor with an uncomplicated tax situation, they may even be able to help file your taxes for you.
2. Your state’s CPA association
These professional trade groups are meant to help CPAs in their careers, but many have websites that post helpful information for small-business owners and the general public. Spend a few minutes on one of these sites, and you could find last-minute tax tips, answers to questions and ideas for organizing your records.
Start with the state-by-state list from the American Institute of CPAs. Click the link for your local CPA association site. From there, you can usually find helpful info under a heading such as “Resources” or “For the Public.” Many of these sites also have options for contacting a local CPA who can help you with more personalized questions.
3. Your bank or credit union
Are the numbers in your financial records not lining up with the tax documents you received from your bank or credit union? Call your financial institution to make sure you received all the necessary paperwork. If you’ve signed up for online banking, you can probably access many of the required forms from your bank’s website.
4. The IRS website
The Internal Revenue Service has a lot of material online, and it’s fairly easy to search for business tax topics. The site has an interactive tax assistant to help you find answers to specific questions, plus articles with general how-to information. There are also video tutorials. The IRS even has its own YouTube channel with videos that address common questions, such as “How to calculate a home office deduction” or “Who needs an EIN.”
This site is also the place to go to if you don’t think you’ll be able to file your taxes on time, because you can download the form for an automatic extension. Once you receive an extension for your individual return, your new due date would be October 15. Be sure to check with your state tax department to see if you also need to file an extension with them.
Tax season is here. If you need help with business taxes, be sure to check out these resources. Even better, remember them after the tax deadline has passed. They can help you prepare for next year, so you won’t have to worry anymore about scrambling at the last minute.
For more small-business tax help, visit NerdWallet’s Small Business Guide.
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