I'll never forget the first time I had to file taxes as a small-business owner. Between the myriad of IRS forms, deductions, payroll and quarterly installments, I was overwhelmed. I quickly learned that the best plan of action was to concentrate on how to file taxes throughout the year, rather than waiting until the precious few days before the early spring deadline.
This month, I spoke to three small-business owners who know a thing or two about how to file taxes. Along with her partner Beth Doane, Kelly Gibbons runs the communications firm Main & Rose in Los Angeles; Nick Pirollo is the co-founder of Philadelphia-based scholarship website Scholly; and Vincenzo Villamena is the owner of tax consultancy Online Taxman in New York City.
Some business owners view taxes as one of the least fun aspects of running a business. Why is it important to know how to file taxes?
Kelly Gibbons: Taxes are definitely an aspect of business ownership on which most people have a horrible perspective. We made a conscious decision to look at taxes as something positive. Filing taxes is a reminder of all the great things we take for granted living in a first-world country with countless opportunities. We want to pay our fair share and the focus should be on just that—paying the amount we should be and honoring why taxes are not a bad thing. It behooves owners to know tax law, to hire experts and to make smart decisions that benefit us now and for the long term.
Nick Pirollo: Taxes are logistically challenging and "giving away" money always hits home. It's for those reasons, however, that doing your taxes properly is an important business focus. I've seen a good number of businesses retain a lot more income by adopting better tax habits. The secondary benefits of proper planning are countless, including being better prepared for audits, seeing issues in your expenses and minimizing inconsistencies in your books.
Vincenzo Villamena: Tax planning is important because it represents an immediate and definitive short-term return of investment in accountant fees. Business owners can make decisions based on real analysis on the tax rates and associated scenarios.
What is your tax preparation process like?
Pirollo: My preparation officially begins in December, but because I don't manage my year-end filing in-house, it is important to manage the relationship with my accountant year round and make sure they are clued in before tax season rolls around.
In December, I round out my books, gather any necessary paperwork and make projections for the remainder of the month in order to form a full picture of the business year. This means I am only making slight adjustments once December's final numbers come in. It also makes the coming year much more manageable, giving me ample time to get any extra cash in place to cover costs.
Villamena: We generally sit down with each client and look through their previous filed returns, examining improvement areas—for example, investment in capex before year-end, retirement plans, making an S-Corp election or declaring year-end bonuses.
Gibbons: We prepare well in advance with respect to our cash flow, and set aside more than we think we will need in order to compensate for higher earnings than what we may expect. This is crucial with a client-based business like ours.
For the rest of the interview, check out the AMEX Open Forum.