The calendar reads March 1, and if you don’t get moving on your income tax preparation both March and April are likely to come in like a lion. Here are our favorite 10 sites, services and software packages that can make tax time as gentle as a lamb.
IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center
Sometimes it might feel like the IRS is out to get you, but they’re really only out to get your money. To that end, the government offers a surprisingly well-organized portal targeted at small-business filers. The IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center includes sections dedicated to particular professions, the self-employed and even international taxpayers.
The IRS Small Business Tax Center has all the forms and information you need to send the government all your money.
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Topics are accessible via an A-to-Z index listing, and the site has quick-links to access forms and publications plus information on allowable business expenses, starting a business, post-filing issues and more. Our favorite link is “Filing Season Central,” which offers highlights of tax-law changes, tax tips and more, including helpful articles such as Top Seven Tips for Taxpayers Starting a New Business.
Intuit TurboTax Business
You’ve been comfortable doing your personal taxes with the help of tax-prep software, so why not your business taxes? Intuit TurboTax Business uses the same familiar Q&A format as the other versions of this time-tested package, hiding the complexities behind an approachable “interview” format.
The software tailors the interview to your type of business (corporation, partnership or multi-member LLC) and provides guidance to help you maximize tax savings while also pointing out audit “red flags”: deductions and tax situations that may increase your risk of an IRS audit.
You can import data from Intuit QuickBooks, naturally, and TurboTax Business creates W-2 and 1099-MISC forms for employees and contractors. Best of all, it costs just $129.95. Sole proprietors, independent contractors, consultants and single-owner LLCs should check out TurboTax Home & Business, which costs $99.95.
You might not peg an online payroll service as a tax-time resource, but SurePayroll is different. Unlike most services that just figure out what your payroll taxes are for a given period and alert you when they’re due, SurePayroll takes the next step and submits the paperwork and payments electronically to the IRS — completely removing the tax-reporting burden from the small business owner.
The company also offers videos, articles, tips and other resources on its site to help entrepreneurs with all things business-related, such as advice on Hiring the Right Tax Advisor for Your Small Business.
American Express OPEN Forum
You don’t have to be an American Express card member to take advantage of the American Express OPEN Forum. This online community of all things small business includes more than 200 articles relating to small-business taxes (simply search for tax and click on the Articles tab when the results appear), including Avoiding Small Business Tax Mistakes and Take Steps to Minimize the Pain of Small Business Taxes.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for, post a question on the site’s moderated discussion boards and see if American Express’ experts or your small-business peers can help.
Small Business Taxes & Management
Fancy it ain’t, but the Small Business Taxes & Management portal is a handy place to find articles, special reports, IRS links and reference material targeted at small-business tax issues. Check out the business provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, for example, or peruse the tax provisions expiring over the next few years. There are even handy federal and state tax calendars to remind you of important tasks and when they are due.
Many businesses use non-employee outside contractors and freelancers, but off your books doesn’t mean off your radar when tax time rolls around: Tax form W-9 is required for any non-employees to whom you pay money, to ensure you properly file a 1099. And for every incorrectly filed 1099, there’s a $50 penalty.
Outright.com helps you track elusive W-9 forms for contractors and freelancers online.
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Outright.com — a free online platform that manages business finances, tracks income and expenses, and automates tax preparation — has rolled out an automated W-9 management service where all your contract workers can fill out the W-9 online. Outright.com tracks the status of W-9s for you to make sure all IRS deadlines are met and ensure you’re ready to file 1099s with the IRS in January.
IPA North America
IPA North America might not be a household name, but it’s one you may want to know. This 1,100-person business development consulting firm specializes in small and medium-size privately-held companies.
In addition to helping businesses maintain positive cash flow, control costs and accelerate profitable growth, the firm offers strategic tax-planning services and representation of clients in resolving matters with federal and state agencies. IPA pros keep abreast of the changes in the tax law that could benefit SMB clients.
Moreover, the company notes that it employs former Revenue Officers, IRS Auditors and IRS Tax Agents, so its teams are familiar with the pitfalls most businesses encounter — and the IRS’s approach to dealing with them.
Microsoft Small Business Center
Microsoft long ago ceded the tax-prep software stage to Intuit and others, but they still have a helping hand to offer come April 15. Microsoft’s Small Business Center online portal offers an entire area dedicated to tax and finance advice for small businesses. Articles include must-know information such as five key tax code changes affecting small businesses and six secrets tax pros won’t share.
StartupNation bills itself as a free online content and community resource founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. The site includes a broad range of topics of interest, including sections dedicated to business financing, business models, marketing and life planning.
When it comes to tax time, the site hosts a range of articles addressing the tax needs of entrepreneurs; For example, check out the article covering five common mistakes to stay on your local IRS agent’s good side.
BusinessTown.com is another small-biz focused site offering a range of articles and directories for business owners, from a section on Getting Started to another on Hiring & Firing plus areas dedicated to Marketing, Legal and, yes, Taxes. The site breaks the topic into manageable chunks including employment taxes, sales taxes, income taxes and more.
Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.
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