Tax Deductions for Professionalsby Stephen Fishman
The book is organized into practical, easy-to-use categories of the most commonly-used business deductions for professionals who own their practice. It covers start-up expenses, health care costs, continuing education, professional fees, home offices, and more.See more details below
The book is organized into practical, easy-to-use categories of the most commonly-used business deductions for professionals who own their practice. It covers start-up expenses, health care costs, continuing education, professional fees, home offices, and more.
“Thorough, straightforward and specific...contains all the information you need to take advantage of every money - saving opportunity.” - Architectural West
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- Third Edition
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- 7.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)
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The tax code is full of deductions for professionals-from automobile expenses to wages for employees. Before you can start taking advantage of these deductions, however, you need a basic understanding of how businesses pay taxes and how tax deductions work. This chapter gives you all the information you need to get started. It covers:
* how tax deductions work
* how to calculate the value of a tax deduction, and
* what professionals can deduct.
How Tax Deductions Work
A tax deduction (also called a tax write-off) is an amount of money you are entitled to subtract from your gross income (all the money you make) to determine your taxable income (the amount on which you must pay tax). The more deductions you have, the lower your taxable income will be and the less tax you will have to pay.
Types of Tax Deductions
There are three basic types of tax deductions: personal deductions, investment deductions, and business deductions. This book covers only business deductions-the large array of write-offs available to business owners, including professionals.
For the most part, your personal, living, and family expenses are not tax deductible. For example, you can't deduct the food that you buy for yourself and your family. There are, however, special categories of personal expenses that may be deducted, subject to strict limitations. These include items such as home mortgage interest, state and local taxes, charitable contributions, medical expenses above a threshold amount, interest on education loans, and alimony. This book does not cover these personal deductions.
Many professionals try to make money by investing money. For example, they might invest in real estate or play the stock market. They incur all kinds of expenses, such as fees paid to money managers or financial planners, legal and accounting fees, and interest on money borrowed to buy investment property. These and other investment expenses (also called expenses for the production of income) are tax deductible, subject to strict limitations. Investment deductions are not covered in this book.
Because a professional practice is a profit-making enterprise, it is a business for tax purposes. People in business usually must spend money on their business-for example, for office space, supplies, and equipment. Most business expenses are deductible, sooner or later, one way or another. And that's what this book is about: How professionals may deduct their business expenses.
You Pay Taxes Only on Your Profits
The federal income tax law recognizes that you must spend money to make money. Virtually every professional, however small his or her practice, incurs some expenses. Even a professional with a low overhead practice (such as a psychologist) must pay for office space and insurance. Of course, many professionals incur substantial expenses, even exceeding their income.
If you are a sole proprietor (or owner of a one-person LLC taxed as a sole proprietorship), you are not legally required to pay tax on every dollar your practice takes in (your gross business income). Instead, you owe tax only on the amount left over after your practice's deductible expenses are subtracted from your gross income (this remaining amount is called your net profit). Although some tax deduction calculations can get a bit complicated, the basic math is simple: the more deductions you take, the lower your net profit will be, and the less tax you will have to pay.
Example: Karen, a sole proprietor, earned $100,000 this year from her child psychology practice. Fortunately, she doesn't have to pay income tax on the entire $100,000-her gross business income. Instead, she can deduct from her gross income various business expenses, including a $10,000 office rental deduction (see Chapter 3) and a $5,000 deduction for insurance (see Chapter 14). These and her other expenses amount to $20,000. She can deduct the $20,000 from her $100,000 gross income to arrive at her net profit: $80,000. She pays income tax only on this net profit amount.
The principle is the same if your practice is a partnership, LLC , LLP , or S corporation: business expenses are deducted from the entity's profits to determine the entity's net profit for the year, which is passed through the entity to the owners' individual tax returns.
Example: Assume that Karen is a member of a three-owner LLC, and is entitled to one-third of the LLC 's income. She doesn't pay tax on the gross income the LLC receives, only on its net income after expenses are deducted. This year, the LLC earned $400,000 and had $100,000 in expenses. She pays tax on one-third of the LLC 's $300,000 net profit.
If your practice is organized as a C corporation, it too pays tax only on its net profits.
You Must Have a Legal Basis for Your Deductions
All tax deductions are a matter of legislative grace, which means that you can take a deduction only if it is specifically allowed by one or more provisions of the tax law. You usually do not have to indicate on your tax return which tax law provision gives you the right to take a particular deduction. If you are audited by the IRS , however, you'll have to provide a legal basis for every deduction the IRS questions. If the IRS concludes that your deduction wasn't justified, it will deny the deduction and charge you back taxes, interest, and, in some cases, penalties.
The Value of a Tax Deduction
Most taxpayers, even sophisticated professionals, don't fully appreciate just how much money they can save with tax deductions. Only part of any deduction will end up back in your pocket as money saved. Because a deduction represents income on which you don't have to pay tax, the value of any deduction is the amount of tax you would have had to pay on that income had you not deducted it. So a deduction of $1,000 won't save you $1,000-it will save you whatever you would otherwise have had to pay as tax on that $1,000 of income.
Federal and State Income Taxes
To determine how much income tax a deduction will save you, you must first figure out your marginal income tax bracket. The United States has a progressive income tax system for individual taxpayers with six different tax rates (often called tax brackets), ranging from 10% of taxable income to 35% (see the chart below). The higher your income, the higher your tax rate.
You move from one bracket to the next only when your taxable income exceeds the bracket amount. For example, if you are a single taxpayer, you pay 10% income tax on all your taxable income up to $7,825. If your taxable income exceeds $7,825, the next tax rate (15%) applies to all your income over $7,825-but the 10% rate still applies to the first $7,825. If your income exceeds the 15% bracket amount, the next tax rate (25%) applies to the excess amount, and so on until the top bracket of 35% is reached.
The tax bracket in which the last dollar you earn for the year falls is called your marginal tax bracket. For example, if you have $150,000 in taxable income, your marginal tax bracket is 28%. To determine how much federal income tax a deduction will save you, multiply the amount of the deduction by your marginal tax bracket. For example, if your marginal tax bracket is 28%, you will save 28o in federal income taxes for every dollar you are able to claim as a deductible business expense (28% x $1 = 28o). This calculation is only approximate because an additional deduction may move you from one tax bracket to another and thus lower your marginal tax rate. For example, if you're single and your taxable income is $77,500, an additional $1,000 deduction will lower your marginal tax rate from 28% to 25%. The first $400 of the deduction will save you $112 in tax (28% x $400 = $112); the remaining $600 will save you $150 (25% x $600 = $150). So your total tax saving is $262, instead of the $280 you would get if, say, your taxable income was $80,000.
The following table lists the 2007 federal income tax brackets for single and married individual taxpayers.
["2007 Federal Personal Income Tax Brackets" Chart] omitted for online sample chapter.
Income tax brackets are adjusted each year for inflation. For current brackets, see IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.
You can also deduct your business expenses from any state income tax you must pay. The average state income tax rate is about 6%, although seven states (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) don't have an income tax. You can find a list of all state income tax rates at www.taxadmin.org/FTA/rate/ind_inc.html.
Social Security and Medicare Taxes
Everyone who works-whether a business owner or an employee-is required to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. The total tax paid is the same, but the tax is paid differently depending on whether you are an employee of an incorporated practice or a self-employed owner of a partnership, LLC , or LLP . Employees pay one-half of these taxes through payroll deductions; employers must pony up the other half and send the entire payment to the IRS . Self-employed professionals must pay all of these taxes themselves. These differences don't mean much when you're an employee of a business you own, since the money is coming out of your pocket whether it is paid by the employee or employer.
These taxes are levied on the employment income of employees, and on the self-employment income of business owners. They consist of a 12.4% Social Security tax on income up to an annual limit; in 2007, the limit was $97,500. Medicare taxes are not subject to any income limit and are levied at a 2.9% rate. This combines to a total 15.3% tax on employment or self-employment income up to the Social Security tax ceiling. However, the effective self-employment tax rate is somewhat lower than 15.3% because (1) you are allowed to deduct half of your self-employment taxes from your net income for income tax purposes, and (2) you pay self-employment tax on only 92.35% of your net self-employment income. The following chart shows the effective self-employment tax rates.
["Effective Social Security Tax Rate" Chart] omitted for online sample chapter.
Like income taxes, self-employment taxes are paid on the net profit you earn from a business. Thus, deductible business expenses reduce the amount of self-employment tax you have to pay by lowering your net profit.
Total Tax Savings
When you add up your savings in federal, state, and self-employment taxes, you can see the true value of a business tax deduction. For example, if you're single and your taxable business income (whether as an employee of an incorporated practice or a self-employed owner of a partnership, LLC , or LLP ) is below the Social Security tax ceiling, a business deduction can be worth as much as 28% (in federal taxes) + 12.3% (in self-employment taxes) + 6% (in state taxes). That adds up to a whopping 43.3% savings. (If you itemize your personal deductions, your actual tax saving from a business deduction is a bit less because it reduces your state income tax and therefore reduces the federal income tax savings from this itemized deduction.) If you buy a $1,000 computer for your practice and you deduct the expense, you save about $433 in taxes. In effect, the government is paying for almost half of your business expenses.
Additional business deductions are worth less if your income is above the Social Security tax ceiling, since you don't have to pay the 12.4% Social Security tax. For example, if you're in the 33% income tax bracket, an additional deduction will be worth 33% (in federal taxes) + 6% (in state taxes) + 2.9% in Medicare taxes. This adds up to 41.9%. Still not bad.
This is why it's so important to know all the business deductions you are entitled to take and to take advantage of every one.
Don't buy things just to get a tax deduction. Although tax deductions can be worth a lot, it doesn't make sense to buy something you don't need just to get a deduction. After all, you still have to pay for the item, and the tax deduction you get in return will only cover a portion of the cost. For example, if you buy a $3,000 computer you don't really need, you'll probably be able to deduct less than half the cost. That means you're still out over $1,500-money you've spent for something you don't need. On the other hand, if you really do need a computer, the deduction you're entitled to is like found money-and it may help you buy a better computer than you could otherwise afford.
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