While the rest of America is debating whether they can afford the new iPhone for Christmas (answer: they can’t), you’re different. For you, December doesn’t mean “how much can I spend?” Rather, it means “how much can I save?” It’s the end of the fiscal year, and you’ve got some last chances to save as much money as possible come tax time (which always comes sooner than you think/want!).
While there are dozens of things you can and should do, sometimes it can get overwhelming. So here are some very simple way to make sure you get your money right before the end of 2017, that have the best bang for the buck.
1. Get your business expenses, expensed.
If you own a small business or freelance, you can expense many purchases that have to do with your work. In fact, it’s one of the biggest ways to reduce your tax bill. So if you have business needs you were going to spend money on anyway, it behooves you to make those purchases before the end of the year. Not only will you take advantage of the holiday discounts, expensings these items in 2017 might make a lot of financial sense considering the proposed Republican Tax Plan that looks like may pass. Since it will raise the standard deduction for next year, many may no longer itemize expenses. So now’s the time to do it. Go ahead, upgrade your Billy subscription. It counts!
Furthermore, if you’ve neglected to expense items, you’ll want to do that now. Many freelancers neglect to submit their expenses to their clients, and even when they do, the clients may take a long time to respond. Take a look at your books and make sure that anything that was expensed in 2017 was actually submitted and processed in 2017. It wouldn’t be the first time we hear about freelancers kicking themselves over a big expense that had to wait until January.
2. Use your health insurance and FSA.
While the effectiveness of the annual checkup has been up for debate recently, that pertains to healthy individuals. If you have a condition, especially one that you’ve been putting off getting checked, it’s a good time to visit your health professional and take advantage of what your health insurance provides annually. The IRS allows you to deduct many of these expenses, such as preventative care (check ups), treatments, and even dental and vision care, as well as prescription medication. Even if you just get your pills refilled before the end of the year, that can help reduce your tax bill.
Of course, if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), it’s important you use it up before the end of the year. Unlike an HSA (Health Savings Account), it doesn’t roll over year-to-year (generally, some employers have exceptions). If you don’t, it’s just money down the drain! Use your FSA to pay for prescriptions, copayments, and other health care costs.
3. Balance your books rigorously.
A common mistake we see are small-business owners who end up having a different record of payment than their contractors. For whatever reason (ie. human error), what your accounting spreadsheet or software shows that you’ve paid out may not match what your contractors are claiming to have received. That can result in big headaches for you and them during taxes so it’s important to make any 1099s are accurate. Now is the time to check your books and make sure your math is right to avoid complaints by both your contractors & vendors and the IRS.
Furthermore, the more you can make sure your books are correct, the less time you’ll need to spend with your accountant. Remember, they may not have your best interests at heart, so be your own tax advocate by knowing where you stand with your expenses, a general sense of what you want to deduct, and gathering all the documentation you and your accountant will need. And tracking down an important missing receipt now will be a lot easier than waiting until April.
4. Meet with your accountant or advisor.
Meeting with your accountant in December? Not as strange as you might think! As we’ve written before, accountants get super busy once February rolls around as they prep for their busiest season: tax time. And that means one big thing: they will raise their rates. Catching them during the off-season will not only be cheaper, but they will be less frazzled. Meet with your accountant now and go through your books at their cheaper rate. They may even have additional tips on how to save more money before the year is up.
If the meeting goes really well, you might not need to see the accountant again at all come time to actually file your taxes. They will already be familiar with your books and documentation at this point, and those are hours saved and money kept in your pocket. You can even sweeten the deal by giving them a holiday gift for meeting with you in December, and then write off that business gift! Fun fact: the IRS allows you to deduct up to $25 for a business gift to any one person per year. Why not spend it on your favorite accountant?
5. Treat yourself for getting your money right.
Look, it’s the holidays. If you’ve done the preceding steps, you more than any other freelancer or business owner deserves to treat yourself, guilt free! Heck, maybe you can afford that new iPhone after all, considering all the money you just saved!
Happy holidays, from everyone here at Billy!