Small Business Tax Strategies

An experienced tax adviser can provide a security blanket if you’re intimidated by the process. And he or she won’t likely take the "bait" if the auditor goes on a fishing trip.

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In the waning days of summer, President Bush signed the highly anticipated Energy Tax Incentives Act of 2005. The massive new energy law contains almost $15 billion in tax cuts designed to encourage conservation, expand domestic energy production and develop alternative energy sources.

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Do your employees need special tools for their jobs? Typically, you provide the tools that workers need or you reimburse employees for tools they must buy on their own. If you handle everything correctly, those reimbursements are tax-free to employees and tax-deductible for you.

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With gasoline prices shooting through the roof, the IRS took the unusual step last month of increasing the standard mileage rate deduction for the final four months of the year.

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Starting in 2006, taxpayers will be able to give cash gifts of up to $12,000 to each recipient without facing gift-tax issues. That’s up from $11,000 this year. Married couples can give twice as much.

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"Passive activity loss" (PAL) rules say that losses from passive activities are limited to annual passive activity income. In general, rental real estate is treated as a passive activity.

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Q: My daughter is a college freshman and I bought her a new laptop through the school. Does that qualify for a tax-free withdrawal? C.K., Syracuse, N.Y.

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Q: I bought stock for about $5,000 and gave it to my son when it was worth $4,000. Now the stock has fallen further and is worth about $3,500. My broker says my son will only have a $500 loss (not $1,500) if he sells it. Is that true? E.B., Miami

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Q: I’m still confused about guaranteed withdrawal benefits and guaranteed monthly income benefits available with some variable annuities. I am interested in the guaranteed monthly income benefit. Can you explain the difference? V.G., via e-mail

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Q: If I inscribe the name of my business on the side panels of my car, can I write off the full cost of my car expenses? My accountant isn’t sure. L.D., West Mifflin, Pa.

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