Make business tax deductions work for you

by Sandra Beckwith
updated May 11, 2023 ·  3min read

Small businesses never want to leave money on the table, whether negotiating a contract, setting prices, or filing taxes. That's why it's essential to understand what business deductions you're entitled to when filing your taxes. You probably know about some—office equipment and consulting fees, for example—but others are less obvious.

A woman in an apron stands in front of shelves of merchandise while working on her iPad.

These six lesser-known small business deductions will help make your company more profitable and competitive.

1. Petty cash

"I thought I was pretty diligent in covering for deductions, especially since I consulted with a tax professional from the onset. But because of the nature of my business, he didn't suggest deductions for petty cash, and I didn't think I'd ever need them," says Jesse Silkoff, founder of MyRoofingPal.

As the business grew, though, Silkoff was spending more and more from petty cash for office supplies and morale boosters that included doughnuts, pizza, balloons, and birthday cake. By establishing a voucher system that allows the company to keep detailed records on how the monthly $200 petty cash is spent, Silkoff can now claim the expenses on the company's taxes.

2. Banking fees

Business account bank charges that include monthly maintenance, ATM, and transaction fees are business deductions.

"Depending on your bank, these little monthly charges can eat up a portion of your overall profit for the year. Writing them off on your taxes as a miscellaneous expense is just one way to recoup some of the costs," says banking writer Cassidy Horton.

3. Healthcare insurance premiums

You can deduct insurance premiums for employees, yourself and covered family members, and Medicare Parts B and D plus supplemental insurance.

In addition to this, any contributions you make to employees' health savings accounts are deductible.

4. Certain utilities

Home-based self-employed media creatives such as publicists, writers, producers, and advertising professionals can deduct a portion of cable TV costs because they're required to keep tabs on trends.

"For freelancers, this can lead to savings of over 50% of the total cost of their cable bill for the year so it can make a real difference," says George Birrell, CPA.

Small business owners, in general, can also deduct their Internet costs, business phone line, and business mobile phone bill. "If you use your personal phone for business, you can deduct a portion of your phone bill depending on the percentage you use it for business versus personal use," says Michael Kern, a CPA and co-founder of KORE Talents Consulting.

5. Start-up expenses

The IRS allows you to deduct $5,000 in start-up expenses and $5,000 in organizational costs incurred before you officially opened your doors as long as those expenses are less than $50,000.

Start-up costs include those incurred creating an active business or investigating how you will create or acquire that business. Organizational costs include what you spend to form a corporation or partnership.

6. International travel using government per diem rates

Do you travel abroad for business? The U.S. State Department simplifies the meal and lodging expense deduction process by providing a per diem rate based on the city.

"I used to keep foreign currency receipts for every trip, then convert each one to U.S. dollars. It was a mess," says Kurt Perschke, owner of WebBabyShower. Thanks to a tip from his accountant, he now documents the cities and travel days, then uses the State Department's per-diem rates for the deductions. "I find they are much more than what I spend," he adds.

The best way to make sure you leverage all deductions available, including the more obvious ones, is to work with a professional. Your tax or accounting advisor will help your company get the most deductions while helping you avoid making costly do-it-yourself mistakes.

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Sandra Beckwith

About the Author

Sandra Beckwith

Sandra Beckwith has been writing for traditional and online publications since she sold her first magazine article while… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.