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Getting your financial house in order.

Here's how you can get the tax deductions you're entitled to

For some business owners, paying taxes can be a bitter pill to swallow. But for those who have a solid bookkeeping system, a good certified public accountant and a solid knowledge of tax law, tax time can be less taxing.

To ready your home business for Uncle Sam, set up a detailed recordkeeping system. Keep in mind that although you will operate your business from home, the Internal Revenue Service will treat the part of your home you use for business as a separate entity. Therefore you must separate your business expenses from your home expenses.

"To keep things in order, separate the receipts when you make the initial purchase. If you are purchasing a household item and a business-related item at the same time, tell the salesperson that you need a different receipt for each," says Rudy Lewis, president of the National Association of Home-Based Businesses (NAHBB).

Set up a separate business bank account. Keep all business receipts in a separate drawer or filing cabinet. Use a computer program to track and record your expenses and income. And hire a good tax advisor or CPA to assist with the paperwork.

An accountant can help you set up your books and track your expenses, pinpoint the types of deductions you can claim and help you fill out the appropriate tax forms.

Like any business owner, you can claim deductions for such things as office supplies, business travel, and meal and entertainment expenses. But you can also file the "home office" deduction, which includes such items as utilities and repairs. But before you file your return, you must first qualify according to strict guidelines set by the IRS: your office must be your principal place of business; a place where you meet with customers or clients during the normal course of business activity; or a separate structure that is detached from your home.

Moreover, your home office must be used "regularly and exclusively" for business. That means that if you use a corner in your family room to operate, but you also use the room to watch TV, you cannot claim the deduction. However, there are a few exceptions to the "exclusive use" rule. Contact your local IRS office for more information.

Once you qualify, you must calculate the amount of your deduction. To figure the percentage of business use, use the "square footage" or "rooms used" method. To use the square footage method, divide the square footage of the space used for your business by the total square footage of the house. The "rooms used" method requires that you divide the number of rooms used for your business by the total number of rooms in the house. Keep in mind all rooms must be roughly the same size.

Here are a few more deductions you can obtain:

* Rent or mortgage interest. As a renter, you can deduct part of your rent. If you are a home owner, you can deduct a portion of your real estate taxes and qualified mortgage interest (but not principal) payments on your home.

* Utilities. You can deduct the business percentage of payments you make for utilities and general home services.

* Repairs and decorating. Costs that you incur for the benefit of your business are considered "direct" home office expenses and are fully deductible. For example, if you repair wood paneling in your office, this expense is deductible. You can also deduct some "indirect" home office expenses, such as repairing a leaky roof. But if these modifications benefit only the personal-use part of your home, they are not deductible.

For more information about the home office deduction, visit your local IRS office, or check out the IRS' Website at or read the Black Enterprise Guide to Starting Your Own Business by Wendy Beech (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95).

To obtain back issues containing other parts of this series, please contact our circulation department at 212-886-9568.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:home business tax deductions
Author:Beech, Wendy M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Previous Article:'Tis the Reason.
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