Small Business Tax Strategies

Q: I own an auto repair shop in Maryland. We’ve switched our compensation plan to a system in which technicians are paid a base salary, plus a bonus based upon billable hours. Since technicians routinely work a 45-hour workweek, must we pay them any overtime? R.B.S., via e-mail

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Heads up: The IRS plans to ratchet up the audit pressure on small businesses in the coming months.

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Suppose you want to add the new guaranteed minimum withdrawal feature (see above) to an existing variable annuity, but the issuer doesn’t allow that option. Are you out of luck? Not necessarily.

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Can’t get enough of a good thing? To hoard even more money for retirement than the tax law allows for qualified plans (such as 401(k)s or pension plans), arrange things so your company makes contributions on your behalf to a nonqualified deferred compensation plan.

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Do you run a business through two or more related companies? These days, it’s not unusual for people to own multiple operations. But you could be inadvertently paying more employment tax than required if some of your employees are "shared" by more than one company.

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Q: I bought a car this year that I used for my sales rep job. My company reimburses me for travel but not the interest I’m paying on a car loan. Can I deduct the interest as a business interest expense? E.L., Islip, N.Y.

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For investors relying on variable annuities during their retirement years, it’s no fun watching the stock market intermittently spike and then plummet. When the market is booming, so is your investment. But your return suffers when the market takes a nose dive.

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While school is out this summer, your teenage child may work full time or part time. Of course, income taxes will be withheld from those wages, even if your child won’t have any income tax liability for 2005.

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With precious little fanfare, the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004 revamped the rules for dependency exemptions. It created a uniform definition of "child" and relaxed the requirements for certain taxpayers. But the old rules still apply in some situations, resulting in even greater confusion for taxpayers. Here’s a quick primer on the old rules, plus how you can take advantage of the new rules.

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Have you joined the millions of taxpayers who use computer software to complete their tax returns? For do-it-yourselfers, it’s usually faster and easier than plowing through the paper version, and at a relatively low cost.

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