Small Business Tax Strategies

With gas prices soaring, the IRS threw business travelers a bone recently by allowing them to deduct 48.5 cents per driving mile for the final four months of 2005. But, at the time, the IRS didn’t touch the standard deduction rate for charity-related driving, which remained at a paltry 14 cents per mile.

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Q: We’re thinking about buying a vacation-home condo on one of the Caribbean islands. If we take out a mortgage, can we deduct the interest on our U.S. tax return? S.J., Darien, Conn.

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Q: My husband passed away last year. Now, I’m preparing to sell the house we’ve owned for 25 years. Can I still shelter $500,000 of the home-sale gain from taxes? I know that $500,000 is the joint-filers amount, but I think I read that I would still qualify? No name, Springfield, Ohio

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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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