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Tax Deductions for Small Businesses

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 Person sits at desk with multiple papers and calculator, doing taxes while drinking coffee.

Tax deductions reduce the amount of your business’s taxable income, which can save you money on your quarterly or yearly taxes. — Getty Images/ bymuratdeniz

Small business owners have no shortage of responsibilities: marketing, payroll, HR, IT services, and more. For busy entrepreneurs, especially those not well-versed in the financial sphere, tax season may feel daunting. Fortunately, small business owners are often eligible for several business tax deductions. Here are 12 tax deductions that could help your business save some money this tax season.

[Read more: 5 Types of Tax Forms Every Small Business Owner Should Know]

Home office

The IRS allows business owners, including self-employed freelancers and independent contractors, who utilize a home office for their business to deduct certain expenses that go into furnishing and maintaining it. The amount you can deduct will depend on the size of the home office in square footage. For example, if your home office is one-quarter of the square footage of your home, you can deduct one-quarter of your rent or electricity. This space must be exclusive for business, even if it’s only a section of a room that has another use.

Keep in mind that you cannot claim the home office deduction for employees working from home for your company; it’s only for self-employed, independent workers.

Startup expenses

If you’re just starting your business, you can claim up to $5,000 before the launch of your business in startup expenses. The costs that are usually considered tax-deductible are:

  • Training expenses.
  • Travel costs for obtaining employees, suppliers, and customers.
  • Market research.
  • Advertising expenses.
  • Wages for contractors or consultants.

You’ll need to successfully open your business in order to claim these expenses, and you cannot deduct funds spent on a failed business.

Repairs and maintenance

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you may find repairs and maintenance are necessary as the building ages. You can deduct repair and maintenance costs that are necessary to keep the building in working, ordinary order. Examples may include painting the exterior or interior of the building and sealing leaks or cracks. It’s important to note that these repairs must be solely to maintain the building rather than improve it. Changes like adding a new room would not be tax-deductible.

Business insurance

Depending on your state, the majority of businesses are required to carry a few forms of business insurance, such as workers’ compensation insurance, general liability insurance, and professional liability insurance. Each of these insurance forms is considered necessary for a business’s operation and can be deducted from your taxable income.

Advertising and marketing

The IRS considers any costs relating to advertising and marketing to be tax-deductible. This includes billboard promotion, online advertising, and the cost of producing advertising materials such as business cards or logos. Deductible costs can even include money spent on food or entertainment you provide to the public as a way of marketing or promoting your business. Small businesses cannot deduct any money spent advertising at political conventions or in political publications, however.

Employee salaries

All of your employees’ wages are also considered fully deductible, including any bonuses and commissions, as long as the payments are deemed ordinary, reasonable, and for services rendered. You can also deduct any paid time off for your employees. This deduction can also apply to independent contractors; however, the contractors must be classified correctly to avoid penalties. Anyone who qualifies as a partner or proprietor is not covered under this deductible.

[Read more: 9 Employee Benefit Costs You Can Deduct from Your Taxes]

Employee health insurance

In general, the cost of providing health coverage to employees is deductible at the state and federal levels. For deducting health coverage reimbursements, your business needs to have a clearly outlined and documented plan explaining your reimbursement policy.

Since 2010, the Affordable Care Act has offered tax credits to small businesses to mitigate the cost of coverage. The qualification for those tax credits can vary from year to year. You can also file paperwork to allow your employees to pay their health insurance pretax, which ultimately reduces your payroll taxes as the employer.


You can deduct repair and maintenance costs that are necessary to keep the building in working, ordinary order.

Charitable contributions

If your business has made a donation to charity, you may be able to claim it on your tax return. The contribution must be a cash donation and benefit a qualified charitable organization, such as a religious organization or a nonprofit founded in the United States. You’ll be able to deduct up to 25% of a donation to a church, synagogue, or veterans organization, for example. If the business is an LLC, sole proprietorship, or partnership, these charitable contributions must be claimed on personal income tax forms — personal charitable donations can be 100% deductible.

Bad debt

A “bad debt” is defined by the IRS as a loss of a debt that occurred through the business or one that was closely related to your trade or business. This includes instances where you may have loaned money to an employee, vendor, or customer and did not see a return. Sales to customers on credit can also qualify as business bad debt. You must prove that the debt was related to the business and not personal or nonbusiness debt. Nonbusiness bad debt could be personal credit card debt or unpaid loans.

[Read more: 10 Commonly Overlooked Small Business Tax Credits]

Business vehicle

Expenses from the usage of a company or business vehicle, such as tolls, maintenance fees, licenses, and insurance, are usually seen as 100% deductible; however, it’s vital to keep detailed records of how the business is using the car, including tracking the mileage. Additionally, the costs must be divided based on mileage if you also rely on the vehicle for personal use.

Business entertainment

The events and meals you provide your employees and potential customers or vendors can also be tax-deductible. The amount you can claim depends on when and where you made the purchase. Meals purchased from restaurants in tax years 2021 and 2022 are considered 100% deductible under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020. However, effective tax year 2023, all meal and entertainment purchase deductions will revert back to the guidelines set forth in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which state:

  • Employee office parties are 100% deductible.
  • Meals and snacks for employees at the office are 50% deductible.
  • A business dinner with a client is 50% deductible.

Travel expenses

Regardless of frequency, work-related travel can often be a tax deduction for small businesses. To qualify, the person traveling must do so for longer than a normal day of work and must sleep away from home.

You can also deduct expenses for temporary work assignments of less than one year. If your team must travel to another state to complete a project for two weeks, you’ll be able to deduct the reasonably related expenses.

You can even deduct any travel expenses for conventions or conferences if they benefit the business.

How to save on taxes as a small business owner

Although taxes can feel overwhelming as a small business owner, there are a few ways you can save yourself time and money:

  • Stay organized. Setting up a separate bank account
    or credit card for business expenses helps ensure all your information
    is in one place when tax season rolls around. You may also consider
    using bookkeeping software and switching to digital versions of
    receipts.
  • Make estimated tax payments on time. If your business
    qualifies as an S corporation, you’ll need to estimate your taxes for the year
    and submit portions of that estimated total quarterly. As a business
    owner, you need to do the same for your income tax and self-employment
    tax. These regular payments and estimations will keep tax season from
    being a surprise to you and your bank account.
  • Max out your retirement plan contributions. Although retirement plan limitations vary, contributing the maximum amount to your retirement plan
    puts your money in a safe place to grow. It may be tempting to use your
    income for more immediate things, but be strict with yourself and only
    prioritize real emergencies and basic necessities over retirement
    contributions.
  • Consider hiring a CPA or enrolled agent. No online
    guide or quick tip round-up can give you the kind of specialized advice
    that a professional can. A CPA will get to know your business and
    understand how to best file your taxes every year.

For more information on small business taxes, check out our guide for tax season planning.

This article was originally written by Rachel Barton.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts.
However, before making any business decision, you should consult a
professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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Should you claim the ERC?

Small businesses looking to take advantage of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) must carefully evaluate all eligibility requirements and closely follow IRS guidance. It’s imperative to choose the right advisor who can help you assess your eligibility, understand limitations to eligibility, and educate you about income tax implications.

Trust Experian tax experts to help your business navigate the complex ERC landscape.

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