Small Business Tax Strategies

Q: I’ve heard that food expenses will be deductible beginning next year. Will itemizing be required? O.D., New York

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Q: I own real estate that I plan to sell to my son through an installment sale. My CPA says this can’t be done because we’re related parties. Is this true? D.R.T., St. Petersburg, Fla.

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You own equipment, furniture and other assets that your business could put to good use. You could sell those assets to your business, but that might drain your company’s cash reserves. Plus, the sale proceeds would be taxable to you personally.

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President Bush signed legislation that provides $6.1 billion tax relief for people and businesses reeling from Hurricane Katrina. While most of the tax-law changes apply to those in the hard-hit Gulf region, some breaks extend to charity-minded taxpayers throughout the country.

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We don’t want to sugarcoat things: Getting hit with an IRS "field audit" is a worst-case scenario and a cause for genuine concern. The process is expensive, time-consuming and requires a more comprehensive defense strategy than the other two types of audits we’ve discussed in our audit series ("correspondence audits" handled through the mail and "office audits" performed at an IRS office).

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A new Tax Court ruling that allowed an employee to deduct education-related expenses opens the door for small business owners to do the same.

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During an audit, chances are that you won’t be able to produce all the receipts, bills or other pieces of written information you’ll need to back up your claims, especially if the audit comes several years after the tax year in question.

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Common situation: You’ve remarried and both you and your spouse have children from previous marriages. If you leave most of your fortune to your surviving spouse, it appears at first glance that you’ll face no major estate-tax concerns. But there’s no guarantee the money will ever wind up in your kids’ hands. The current estate-tax exemption can cover direct transfers to your children of up to $1.5 million, but that’s all.

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If you hit the jackpot at a casino, racetrack or other gambling venue, you can reduce the tax on your winnings by offsetting those winnings with your gambling losses. But you must keep good records and those losses must be claimed as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on your tax return.

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Do you help parents, in-laws or other elderly relatives with their living expenses? Maybe you occasionally pitch in with your relative’s expenses, but you aren’t able to claim a dependency exemption. Reason: You don’t provide at least half of that person’s annual support.

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