Free Advice Online for this Taxing Time of Year

By Jamie Bsales | Posted March 19, 2008

As April 15 approaches, small business owners become keenly aware of every penny that goes out the door. After all, the taxman cometh, and he wants his pound of flesh. To make this time of year easier, we’ve gathered half a dozen online resources that can help you with your taxing IRS questions—and none of them will cost you a dime.

Start Behind Enemy Lines
It might be hard to believe, but the IRS might be your best friend this time of year. Some of your hard-earned tax dollars go toward funding the agency’s Web site, where there is an entire portal dedicated to small business/self-employed tax issues.

At this time of year the site features a “Filing Season Central” area that includes links to IRS publications and forms, highlights of tax-law changes, tips for getting ready for 2008 and more. There are also sub-sections covering self-employed independent contractors, allowable business expenses and depreciation schedules, guidance for tax-related responsibilities for businesses with employees and information on how to pay your taxes (hint: early and often).

IRS portal screen shot
The IRS portal for small businesses delivers a wealth of information to help make more sense out of the tax code.
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Looking for an answer on a particular topic? The site also lists subject matter in a handy A-to-Z index. If you're interested in tax advice for a particular industry, you can drill down into pages dedicated to a dozen business types including construction, manufacturing, real-estate and even online auction sellers. Seeing how helpful the IRS is trying to be, maybe the agency isn’t evil incarnate after all. Then again…

Free Advice from the Pros
Intuit’s TurboTax products have long been favorites of the do-it-yourself tax-prep crowd, and the company offers small businesses TurboTax Home & Business (for sole proprietors and consultants) and TurboTax Business (for incorporated businesses, partnerships and LLCs) titles. But even if you’re not in the market for tax-prep software, Intuit’s free tax-tools Web site is worth a look.

In the Tax Tips center panel, click on the Small Business header to see a drop-down list of 15 hyperlinks to tools and articles from the tax experts at Kiplinger. Especially helpful is the area on small-business tax deductions covering everything from automobiles and bad debts to travel and (importantly) expenses you can’t deduct.

The list also includes links to plain-English explanations of tax-law changes stretching from 2007 to 2011, information on business use of vehicles and depreciating business assets, estimated tax payments and starting (or closing) a business. We also love the comprehensive article on the home-office deduction that explains who qualifies and what to deduct, as well as the companion article on how to set up a home office to stay within the IRS guidelines.

A Community Approach
Where better to learn about tax issues than from tax professionals? TaxAlmanac.org is a community-driven wiki where CPA types can find tax research and information, news, articles, discussion forums (more than 14,000 threads at last count) and more.

It’s geared primarily toward tax pros and accountants, but any small business owner is welcome to keep abreast of tax-law changes that may impact his or her bottom line. There are more than 52,000 government and user-contributed articles on the site, covering topics that range from interpreting new and existing tax codes to reports on recent court decisions.

The site arranges articles and discussions in A-to-Z indices to make finding a topic easier. Intuit sponsors the site, but the company has taken a hands-off approach and lets the community members evolve the site organically.

TaxAlmanac.org screen shot
TaxAlmanac.org is a community-driven wiki that contains tens of thousands of contributed articles and discussion threads.
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Free Advice from Microsoft
If you have a small business and a PC, chances are you’ve given Microsoft plenty of money in the past, so now it’s time to get something for free. The company’s online Small Business Center offers articles by outside pros on a range of topics, including an area dedicated to tax advice. Read about tax strategies for handling major business expenses, travel expense deduction strategies, five common tax and bookkeeping mistakes and a dozen more topics.

Links to Resources and Articles
It isn’t the slickest looking site on the Web, but Small Business Taxes & Management is a clearinghouse for all things tax related. Here you’ll find links to special reports and news articles related to tax topics, IRS quick links, a reference section (including links to depreciation tables, explanations of abbreviations, tax formulas and much more) and articles on recent legislation. Be sure to check out the News and Tip of the Day items, as well as the to-do list calendars for federal and state taxes.

Micro-Businesses Welcome
If you’re a sole proprietor, check out the site of the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE). Its Business Resources section offers links to articles, videos and podcasts on a range of topics. The TaxTalk section has help on the home-office deduction, health insurance deduction, self-employment tax and more. There’s also help with doing your own tax return (or hiring a professional, business use of automobiles, last-minute tax tips and getting a jump on next year’s taxes.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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