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  • Tax Trap #1 -- Waiting to Incorporate: What A Difference A Date Can Make

     

    NOTE: This is the first in a series of 5 articles:"Small Business Tax Traps and How To Avoid Them"

    If you're a sole proprietor, perhaps you've consideredincorporating your small business or self-employmentactivity.

    And so maybe you've been wondering,"When is the best time to incorporate?"

    From a legal standpoint, any time is the best time. The sooner you incorporate, the sooner you make the movefrom the world of unlimited liability to the world oflimited liability.

    From a tax savings standpoint, any time is the best time. The sooner you incorporate, the sooner you will startputting more money in your own pocket and less in Uncle Sam's.

    (For more about the potential tax savings of acorporation, see the second article in this series --"Tax Trap #2: Double Taxation -- Isn't Once Enough?"http://www. YouSaveOnTaxes. com/tax-trap-2.html)

    But from a **tax reporting** standpoint, there is one timeof year that stands out as best: January 1st.

    Why is that?

    Assuming you have a sole proprietorship (or other entity, such as a partnership) that is up and running as of January 1, and assuming you then incorporate thatexisting entity on any date other than January 1,you face the possibility of filing not one buttwo business income tax returns for that year.

    Here's an example to clarify this important point . . .

    Let's say you've been operating your sole proprietorshipfor a few years, and in early 2005 you decide to incorporate. In January you get around to startingthe paperwork, but life gets in the way andyou finally get it done in late February. By the timeyour state processes the Articles of Incorporation, the start date of your new corporation is March 1.

    For 2005, you must file a Schedule C for the periodof January 1 through February 28, when your businesswas still a Sole Proprietorship. And you must alsofile a corporate income tax return for March 1 throughDecember 31.

    Maybe that's no big deal. Maybe you enjoy filingone business income tax return so much, filinga second one doesn't bother you. And it may bethat the inconvenience of filing two tax returnsin 2005 is far outweighed by the legal and taxadvantages of incorporating.

    Keep in mind, too, that 2005 will be the only yearyou have to do this "double duty". In 2006 youwill only have to file the corporate income tax return.

    But if you are thinking about incorporating, thebest time to do it, from a tax paperwork standpoint, is as of January 1. Only then do you have a "clean break"from the old sole proprietorship to the newcorporation.

    This timing issue can also be relevant if youdecide to make the switch late in the year. Ifthe effective date of the incorporation is November 15,you will have to file a Schedule C for January 1through November 14, and a corporate return forNovember 15 through December 31. In that scenario, you should ask yourself, "Do the benefits ofincorporating outweigh the convenience of waitinguntil January 1?"

    So before you decide when to incorporate, take a momentto reflect on the tax reporting consequences of incorporating on January 1 vs. any other date.

    Sometimes it may make sense to wait a few weeks(as in the second example), and sometimes it makes senseto "do it now", especially when January 1 is nearby.

     



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