Small business owners should do these four tasks as soon as possible in the new year...getty

Owning a small business is daunting, even for people with loads of management experience. Suddenly finding oneself “where the buck stops” can be anxiety inducing. The consequences of failure for some mistakes can affect more than just you (e.g., your staff or even your family) and can be expensive and time consuming to fix.

Whether you are a brand new business owner or someone who has had their business for a while but is constantly gobsmacked by the amount of administrative work that piles up when you are working on other tasks, Ronnie Goode—CPA-owner of Rhythm Accounting in Richmond, Virginia— says that taking some time in January to mark the following four items off of your “to do” list will reap rewards when it’s time to file your tax return.

1) Close Your Books For 2022

One of the first tasks small business owners should do (especially those who manage their own books) is to close their business books:

  • Categorize Transactions: Sort expenses into the proper accounts. It’s OK if you aren’t sure to use the “Ask My Accountant” option but try not to overuse it. If you have multiple income streams make sure that bank deposits are also coded by income stream so you can determine your business’ most profitable income sources.
  • Reconcile Bank Accounts: This task is often skipped by business owners who don’t have outside bookkeeping or accounting help but it is one of the most important year-end tasks to ensure balance sheets and other financial reports are accurate.
  • Generate Financial Reports: At a minimum your tax preparer (even if that is you) needs a detailed profit and loss statement (P&L) and, ideally, a balance sheet. If you have a CPA they will help you interpret your financial results. If you provide them with the necessary information early enough in tax season, they may even be able to help you with some last-minute, after year end tax planning.

2) Issue Forms 1099-NEC To Contractors And Subcontractors

If you paid more than $600 to a contractor or a subcontractor you have until January 31, 2023 to issue them a Form 1099-NEC. If you haven’t already received Form W9 from your contractors you will need to contact them to have them provide you with the form or the necessary information. Adopt the best practice of having new contractors complete their W9 before they begin work.

Make it a requirement for accepting the contract! It’s even a good idea to ask your regular contractors to complete a new Form W9 at the beginning of each calendar year just to make sure their business and contact information is up to date. Goode reminds business owners that the W9 is not necessary if the payments were issued to a corporation (e.g., the big box store from which you purchase your office supplies).

3) Issue Forms W2 To Employees

If you had any employees in 2022 you must issue their W2 on or before January 31, 2023. Goode notes that the simplest way to accomplish this is to use payroll-specific software or a payroll provider. Now is also a good time to check and make sure all payroll tax forms (Forms 941 and Form 940) have been or will be filed promptly and that all payroll taxes have been or will be paid.

4) Make Your Final Estimated Tax Payment

Goode reminds business owners that their final estimated tax payment for 2022 is due on January 17, 2023. He notes that the amount of estimated taxes you are required to pay is based on last year’s numbers. Sometimes, however, those numbers aren’t accurate. Adjusting quarterly estimates is one area where hiring an outside tax and accounting professional can really help taxpayers avoid problems.

For example, if a taxpayer has a bad quarter, the professional can help determine a lower estimate or if the business had an exceptionally good quarter the professional can determine if making a larger estimated payment will help avoid a nasty surprise come filing time.

Even if you are managing your own books, resolve to learn how estimated payment calculations are made and to look at your profit and loss quarterly to ensure you are not overpaying or grossly underpaying your estimated taxes. Finally, Goode reminds small business owners that “From a financial perspective, businesses have cycles that dictate not only how to move, but when to move.

Understanding these cycles can help [business owners] create a routine and a [financial] system for their business” that helps the business maximize profits while planning for the taxes. Remember, it’s never a good idea to spend money to save money on taxes. Spend money to make more money and plan for the taxes as you go!

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