Yes, I know you’re busy with the holidays in your small business. But you’ve only got a few more days to make the most of 2019. In the waning days of December, you can take a few steps to reduce your taxes, improve your retirement, and feel more secure as you enter 2020.
1. Spend money.
The basic rule of end-of-year tax planning is “accelerate expenses and delay income.” This is the tried-and-true way to help lower your tax bill. If you want to write a smaller check to the IRS, buy things now you need for your business and pay some vendors and expenses in advance. Now, don’t go out and just spend for spending’s sake. But if you’ve got expenses you’ll need to make in early 2020, buying them in December can help lower your taxes. As for other expenses—paying vendors and contractors, memberships that you’ll need to pay for in early 2020—the IRS allows you to prepay many of those items now so you can deduct them as 2019 expenses. You can certainly pay now for any items or services received in 2019 even if the bill isn’t due yet. And you can prepay some subscription services and the like.
2. Delay getting paid.
Once again, this is about lowering your taxable income—and your tax bill—for 2019. So, if you have money that is owed to you AND THAT YOU KNOW YOU’LL GET PAID FOR QUICKLY IN 2020, just wait til January 1, 2020 to send out those invoices. Note the emphasis I’ve place on the words “You know you’ll get paid for quickly.” If you have some customers you know are hard to collect from or that take a long time paying, don’t wait. It’s better to have the money in your bank and pay higher taxes than to get stiffed or have to wait months and months for payment.
3. Set up a retirement account.
Yes, yes, I know you’ve been meaning to set up a retirement account, but you somehow put it off year after year. Well, you’ve got a deadline right now. If you set up an individual 401K or a 401K for your business, you have to establish the plan by December 31, though you have until your tax deadline to fund it. Even though you have til your tax deadline to set up a SEP IRA, give yourself a holiday present and help secure your retirement, and go ahead and set it up now. You’ll also get a tax deduction for the amount you contribute, so you win twice!
4. Back up your data.
I cannot believe the number of small business owners who tell me they have all their data on their computer or server with absolutely no backups, especially no backups in the cloud. This is madness! You need a way to get your data if something happens to your computers or your premises. I was trying to help small businesses recover from the California wildfires this year, and consultants told me one of the biggest hurdles for small businesses was that they lost all their data when they had to quickly abandon their businesses. Computers, laptops, phones, servers can all be lost, stolen, burned, flooded. Keep a backup of all your important data—your financial records, customer records, inventory lists, etc—in the cloud.
5. Buy a car, a van, or a truck.
If you were thinking of getting a new vehicle soon, go out and buy it in December. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows for 100% depreciation for heavy vehicles and generous depreciation for passenger vehicles bought and used in 2019. You’ll get a whole year’s worth of depreciation if you buy that car, truck, or van now instead of waiting ‘til next summer. So hit those auto and truck dealerships and start taking some test drives.
6. Finally, be sure to take time to enjoy your friends and family during the holiday season.
Your business takes up so much of your attention all year, be sure to give those who really count your attention during this festive season. Happy holidays!
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2019
This article originally ran in USA Today on December 18, 2019