February 1st, 2022

4 Costly Tax Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Running a small business has many challenges—the cost of benefits, finding and keeping skilled employees, government regulations, and financing just to name a few. But one of the least enjoyable and risky aspects of running your own small business is taxes. 

Let’s be honest, we don’t like to deal with our personal taxes, much less the complexity that comes with taxes when you run a small business. If done incorrectly, taxes can cost you a lot of time and money. 

According to the IRS, the following are the most common and costly tax mistakes that business owners make. We’ve provided an overview of how they occur, their penalties, and most importantly—how you can avoid them. 

1. Underpaying Taxes

Underpaying taxes as a business happens when you don’t pay enough of your estimated taxes (i.e. unknowingly withhold less tax than is required) or pay late. You’ll know if you’ve underpaid or are late when the IRS sends you a notice or letter in the email. By this point, however, you might already have a penalty. 

The penalty for this tax mistake depends on the amount of underpayment, how late it was, and the interest rate on underpayments that quarter. So depending on the size of your business—the penalty could be steep. To avoid this tax mistake: 

  • Stay up to date on withholding requirements 
  • Take note of quarterly tax deadlines
  • Apply safe harbor provisions—or payment of 110% of your previous year’s tax liability to avoid underpayment 

2. Depositing Employment Taxes 

Employment taxes, social security, and Medicare taxes must be withheld and deposited monthly or semi-weekly—depending on your preference. But if you do not deposit them correctly or on time, you may be charged a penalty. 

The penalty received depends on the number of days your deposit is late, but it ranges from 2-15% of your unpaid deposit, plus interest. To avoid this tax mistake:

  • Review your payment schedules and plan for due dates
  • Make sure your tax forms (such as Form 940, Form 941, and W-2s) are properly prepared and filed 

3. Filing Late

The easiest way to avoid tax mistakes is to ensure you don’t file late! That way if an issue or error occurs, you have the time needed to fix it. Take note that the filing requirements and deadlines can vary depending on your type of business. 

The penalty for filing late is 5% for the taxes you owe per month for the first five months, up to 25% of your tax bill—plus interest. The IRS advises that you file all tax returns that are due, regardless of if you can pay in full. At the end of the day, it’s illegal not to file. And depending on your business type, you can be held personally liable for any unpaid taxes. 

So the advice on this tax mistake is short and simple—don’t file late. Take note of all tax form deadlines at the start of each year to avoid penalties and add them to your calendar

4. Not Separating Business and Personal Expenses

Small businesses that are just starting out are especially prone to using one credit card for everything. If you or multiple people in your organization aren’t keeping track of business expenses properly, it could cause errors in deductions. Additionally, if you are ever audited it makes things very difficult and puts your business at risk of more penalties.

To avoid this issue: 

  • Make sure you have an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This will make it easy to establish your company, open a bank account, and apply for a business credit card. 
  • As a small business owner, once you’re profitable, you’ll also want to pay yourself a salary to avoid taking funds from the business in the incorrect way. 
  • Keep track of your business expenses and encourage your employees to do so as well. There are a variety of online tools that make this easy to do. 

Avoid Tax Mistakes with Obsidian HR

Obsidian HR knows the burden that tax administration places on businesses. As a result, we process, file, pay, and distribute many of your payroll tax documents, reports, and deposits on your behalf. 

We stay up to date with the changes, filing requirements, and deadlines that each tax season brings so you don’t have to. We’ll also remind you of other important dates and HR requirements. 

  • We record, file, and share your forms with you (Form W-3, W-2 1099s, 941, 940, 1096, and SUTA and state withholding quarterly and annually) 
  • Paystubs and W-2 forms are available electronically for you and your employees for ease and convenience through our payroll platform 
  • Our platform also tracks time off, attendance, and can create customized reports to make it easier to conduct payroll audits and update employee records

To learn more and stay up to date with this year’s tax deadlines, download the guide below!

Download the Guide: 2022 Tax Deadlines

2022 is here and with that comes tax season, use this document to stay up to date on important 2022 tax deadlines.

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