It is no surprise that states audit their small business community as a productive way to increase revenue for their state coffers. Should you receive the dreaded notice of one of these audits, here are some ideas that can make this a more pleasant experience:
Review the sales tax rules. Know the rules in your state and locality. Pay special attention to areas that are not taxed. A quick internet search on sales and use tax audits for your state should yield examples of areas the auditor will focus their resources. Pay attention to the terminology used in these documents. Use the same terminology when talking with the auditor.
Conduct a self-audit. Prior to the arrival of the auditor, audit yourself. Begin with your sales receipts, migrate to capital purchases, and then finish with your bills. Pay special attention to internet sales and purchases you make with your credit card.
The best defense is a good offense. You may find areas in your self-audit where you paid tax when none was due. Perhaps you have production equipment and your energy providers charge you sales tax on all your power. You may be due a sales tax refund for up to three years of this production energy use.
Watch out for capital equipment. The sales tax rules on capital equipment can vary dramatically. Some vendors may be required to collect and send in sales tax on equipment purchases that are not taxable. You must then file to collect a refund.
The expense report trap. An easy way to have the auditor pay for their time is to review your expense reports. Often you do not keep receipts of items purchased at a retail store. An auditor could assess you sales tax on items purchased at Walmart, simply because you did not keep the receipt. This despite the fact that a Walmart retail store always collects sales tax.
It’s not usually taxes on your sales that gets you. Remember, it is not often the collecting and transmitting taxes on your sales that gets attention in an audit, it is the payment of use tax and sales tax purchases you make and potentially overlook.
Pre-determine scope of audit. Prior to the audit please inquire what the scope of the audit will entail. If the timing of the audit will create a hardship, request a time that is better for you and your business. Consider recommending sampling a defined period of time versus a full review of all your records.
Get help. Finally, please consider that you will typically encounter an audit of this type once or twice during your career. The auditor does this every day. So get help as soon as you receive the audit notice.
Remember, all states share information with each other. They know sales and use tax audits of small businesses often generate more income than the state pays their auditor. Knowing this, it is best to be prepared.
Why Taxes? Why Now?
"We opened up shop here in the Wylie, Sachse, Murphy area in 2018 with a passion to help start-ups and small businesses get on top of their bookkeeping,” Allen explains.
“What we found was a lot of folks just don’t get the tax game. And now that there are new laws and regulations, many are starting to panic; but trust me, small businesses have everything to gain with the new Section 179 Deductions.
“After filing a few late returns, in that first year, we learned that there is a real need for some tax expertise. We spent a good part of 2018 getting up to speed on tax law, and now I am an Enrolled Agent, federally licensed to practice before the IRS on behalf of my clients and anyone else who may be facing the daunting ‘IRS boogie man.’
“During tax season, we are prepared to handle it all.
For individuals we have helped folks with past-due tax returns and work with the IRS to eliminate all penalties... sometimes we given get rid of the tax debt itself.
For companies the biggest problem businesses of all sizes have is filing and paying their payroll taxes - both state and federal - on time. The rules for 940s and 941s are extremely confusing so we have helped a lot of companies catch up.
If they like our work, they sometimes retain us for bookkeeping and payroll.
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