Small business owners: Here’s why you need an accountant even if you do your own taxes

If you own a small business, you need an accountant.

Sure, you’ve been filing your taxes using one of those online tax services, but a digital solution can only take you so far. An accountant – a real accountant – is an important part of your small business team.

That’s always true, but it’s especially important when dealing with taxes for the year of COVID.    

During 2020 and earlier this year, various COVID relief bills were passed, virtually all including provisions that affect small businesses. And some provisions overturned decisions that were made earlier. That makes 2020 business taxes really challenging. So even though the deadline for filing your individual taxes has been pushed back to May 17, and accountants are already really busy, but you should hustle to find a good one.

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You certainly want to talk to an accountant if your business qualified for some of the various forms of government and private support and tax benefits this year.

The various forms of government assistance and tax benefits in 2020 were unbelievably confusing. For example, if you got a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loan, first the government said the expenses you used weren’t tax deductible, and then in late 2020, they reversed that decision. In some states, PPP forgiveness funds are not taxable, in others it might be. If you kept employees on your payroll, you may – or may not – qualify for an Employee Retention Credit. You need help!

Working for yourself in 2020 can affect your taxes. (Photo: Getty Images)

Here are just a few of the government programs and policies that might affect your 2020 small business taxes:   

  • Paycheck Protection Program
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans and EIDL loan advances
  • Employee Retention Credit
  • Any support from other governments or organizations 

But a good accountant is more – much more – than a tax preparer. A good accountant is your small business advisor, not just a tax advisor. He or she should be able to help you deal with all the major financial issues your small business faces and advise you on how to insure your personal financial well-being.

My accountant changed my life – at least my financial life. Frankly, I owe much of my financial well-being to the advice my CPA, Steve Thielmann, of Ruzzo Scholl & Murphy in Campbell, Calif., has given me over the last 20 years. Steve was an unlikely choice for me. Who expected an accountant to wear flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt to the office?

But in the early days, Steve guided me on how to handle the financial matters, including the accounting and money handling systems of my business. He helped me set up systems to reduce the likelihood of theft or embezzlement. Importantly, he guided me on ways to structure investment, personal loans, and losses to get not only the best tax treatment but to better manage my cash flow. Over time, as I started having profits, he found me retirement programs that have enabled me to feel financially secure as I face my future.

At least once a year – not in tax season – I would sit down with Steve and Leanne Roberto in his office  (Leanne does our bookkeeping) and go over what was happening in the business, so I always had a knowledgeable, committed financial team on my side.

When working with an accountant, here are some questions to ask them to help you run your business, save money, and stay out of trouble:

  • What kinds of taxes will I have to pay? What are my tax deadlines?
  • How can I reduce my taxes?
  • Which expenses are deductible, non-deductible or have to be depreciated?
  • What kind of bookkeeping system should I set up?
  • How can I set up systems to reduce the possibility of theft or embezzlement?
  • How should I pay myself and what are the tax implications?
  • Should I use the cash or accrual form of bookkeeping?
  • Do I need to keep track of inventory? If so, what method do I use?
  • How do I handle payroll and payroll taxes?
  • Do I have to collect sales tax? When? From whom?
  • What kind of retirement program can I set up and how much can I contribute each year?
  • What other accounting and tax considerations are there for my type business?

Believe me, a good small business accountant can save you more than you pay them. And you’ll almost certainly lower your taxes, too!

Rhonda Abrams’ newest book “The Sh*t’s Hit the Fan: Now What, 99 Recession-Proof Tips for Small Business Success” has just been released. Rhonda was named a “Top 30 Global Guru” for Startups. Connect with Rhonda on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Register for Rhonda’s free business tips newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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