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Going through an IRS Audit can be a big deal if you’re not prepared.  But with today’s technology, we’re going to show you an easy way to make sure you have all the documentation you need to prove your business expenses.  I’m not saying that all audits are the same, but most of the ones we’ve helped clients through ask for substantiation, or proof, of certain expenses that you’re claiming on your tax return.  If you can’t provide adequate records and prove the business purpose, then the IRS could disallow those expenses—and you don’t want that!

 

Use Technology

We spend lots of time vetting out new technologies to find the ones that work well, and the ones that don’t.  Part of this process is actually using the apps, and analyzing a few things: 1. How easy is it to use and 2. Does it work well with a general small business work process?  Our favorite app for retaining information is Evernote.  If you’ve never heard of Evernote (that would be surprising), we recommend checking them out on the web.  We’re going to show how to use Evernote to audit-proof your business.

 

Introduction to Evernote

Evernote is a like a central hub for all data you want to put into it.  For me, I use it like an external hard drive for my brain!  The power of Evernote lies within it being accessible on every device you own, easy to get information into it, and easy to find the information later when you need it.  For the purpose of this post, we’re going to cover:

  • Using your mobile device to scan receipts
  • Organizing into Notebooks
  • Using tags
  • Using other services to connect to Evernote

 

Overview

To audit proof your business you need to track key elements about your expenses.

  • Date you purchased
  • Amount
  • Who you purchased from
  • Business purpose

Most of the time a receipt covers all that quite nicely.  The only thing you should add is Business Purpose (which we’re going to show you).  You should also keep bank/credit statements, and even cleared checks.

 

Using Evernote to Achieve Audit Protection Bliss

At the very basic level, Evernote is structured as Notebooks and Notes that live within those Notebooks.  You can also use Tags to help you organize and search easier.

Keep Receipts

Step 1: Create a Notebook called Receipts

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Step 2: Use the mobile app to snap scans of your receipts as you make purchases

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Notice that the Notebooks is “Receipts” and we’re using a tag called “office supplies” so that we can easily search for office supplies.  Also, you’ll notice we put the business purpose as the name of the note.  You can do this on your computer, or on your mobile device.

Step 3: Do the same process for every receipt you get.  Evernote will become your repository for all your receipts.  You can easily search for your receipts by tag if you want to see all of your Office Supply receipts.

Keep Bank Statements

After using Evernote you’re going to find more useful ways to use it in your everyday life.  One key feature is being able to keep and store attachments in notes.  Now, downloading your bank statements and putting them in Evernote is not that hard, but it’s also not that convenient.  Remember we said that one of the key features to apps we use is convenience?

The solution to this is to use an Evernote Marketplace app called File This.  File This is simply an app that will automatically retrieve your bank, credit card, utility statements, and put them where you tell it.  While it will export directly to popular cloud-based file sharing apps like Google Drive & Dropbox, you can also connect it to Evernote.

Once you have it File This connected to Evernote, your bank statements will automatically appear in the designated Notebook within Evernote.  File This is pretty robust and even has a free version for you to get started on.

 

Start Scanning!

Scanning your receipts and storing bank statements within Evernote will start you down the path of preparedness if the IRS decides to “knock on your door”.  Of course, in order for this system to work you have to be committed and adopt it as a workflow/system you use in your day to day life.  We use this system, we have clients using this system, and we can tell you that with a bit of discipline, it works!

Want to learn more about Evernote?  I’m an Evernote Certified Consultant so drop us a line and we’ll help you figure which version is best for you, and discuss how you can use it in your business.

Here are some useful links where you can sign up for free trials:

Evernote Basic

Evernote Plus

Evernote Premium

Evernote Business

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One of the biggest hurdles you’ll face in running your own business is staying on top of your numerous obligations to federal, state, and local tax agencies. Tax codes seem to be in a constant state of flux making the Internal Revenue Code barely understandable to most people.

The old legal saying that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is perhaps most often applied in tax settings and it is safe to assume that a tax auditor presenting an assessment of additional taxes, penalties, and interest will not look kindly on an “I didn’t know I was required to do that” claim. On the flip side, it is surprising how many small businesses actually overpay their taxes, neglecting to take deductions they’re legally entitled to that can help them lower their tax bill.

Preparing your taxes and strategizing as to how to keep more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket becomes increasingly difficult with each passing year. Your best course of action to save time, frustration, money, and an auditor knocking on your door, is to have a professional accountant handle your taxes.

Tax professionals have years of experience with tax preparation, religiously attend tax seminars, read scores of journals, magazines, and monthly tax tips, among other things, to correctly interpret the changing tax code.

When it comes to tax planning for small businesses, the complexity of tax law generates a lot of folklore and misinformation that also leads to costly mistakes. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the more common small business tax misperceptions.

1. All Start-Up Costs Are Immediately Deductible

Business start-up costs refer to expenses incurred before you actually begin operating your business. Business start-up costs include both start up and organizational costs and vary depending on the type of business. Examples of these types of costs include advertising, travel, surveys, and training. These start up and organizational costs are generally called capital expenditures.

Costs for a particular asset (such as machinery or office equipment) are recovered through depreciation or Section 179 expensing. When you start a business, you can elect to deduct or amortize certain business start-up costs.

For tax years beginning in 2010, you can elect to deduct up to $10,000 of business start-up costs paid or incurred after 2009. The $10,000 deduction is reduced (but not below zero) by the amount such start-up costs exceed $60,000. Any remaining costs must be amortized.

2. Overpaying The IRS Makes You “Audit Proof”

The IRS doesn’t care if you pay the right amount of taxes or overpay your taxes. They do care if you pay less than you owe and you can’t substantiate your deductions. Even if you overpay in one area, the IRS will still hit you with interest and penalties if you underpay in another. It is never a good idea to knowingly or unknowingly overpay the IRS. The best way to “Audit Proof” yourself is to properly document your expenses and make sure you are getting good advice from your tax accountant.

3. Being incorporated enables you to take more deductions.

Self-employed individuals (sole proprietors and S Corps) qualify for many of the same deductions that incorporated businesses do, and for many small businesses, being incorporated is an unnecessary expense and burden. Start-ups can spend thousands of dollars in legal and accounting fees to set up a corporation, only to discover soon thereafter that they need to change their name or move the company in a different direction. In addition, plenty of small business owners who incorporate don’t make money for the first few years and find themselves saddled with minimum corporate tax payments and no income.

4. The home office deduction is a red flag for an audit.

While it used to be a red flag, this is no longer true–as long as you keep excellent records that satisfy IRS requirements. Because of the proliferation of home offices, tax officials cannot possibly audit all tax returns containing the home office deduction. In other words, there is no need to fear an audit just because you take the home office deduction. A high deduction-to-income ratio however, may raise a red flag and lead to an audit.

5. If you don’t take the home office deduction, business expenses are not deductible.

You are still eligible to take deductions for business supplies, business-related phone bills, travel expenses, printing, wages paid to employees or contract workers, depreciation of equipment used for your business, and other expenses related to running a home-based business, whether or not you take the home office deduction.

6. Requesting an extension on your taxes is an extension to pay taxes.

Extensions enable you to extend your filing date only. Penalties and interest begin accruing from the date your taxes are due.

7. Part-time business owners cannot set up self-employed pensions.

If you start up a company while you have a salaried position complete with a 401K plan, you can still set up a SEP-IRA for your business and take the deduction.

A tax headache is only one mistake away, be it a missed payment or filing deadline, an improperly claimed deduction, or incomplete records and understanding how the tax system works is beneficial to any business owner, whether you run a small to medium sized business or are a sole proprietor.

And, even if you delegate the tax preparation to someone else, you are still liable for the accuracy of your tax returns. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call today. We’re here to assist you.

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