Small business taxes can be very expensive! Can a tax planning service help you lower them? If so, do these savings outweigh the cost of the investment?
At CSI Accounting & Payroll, we’ve helped small businesses with tax planning for over 50 years. We have seen firsthand the differences in what annual tax filing and year-round tax planning cost - and what they provide.
While there are no guaranteed results in this article because every business and every tax service is different, there are both exceptional and average numbers discussed here to answer the following questions:
Can an annual tax accountant save me money on taxes?
Can a year-round tax planning service save me money on taxes?
What other savings are possible beyond my annual tax bill?
Filing Taxes With an Annual Tax Accountant
An annual tax accountant is a popular choice for small business owners who don’t want their taxes to fall on them or their administrative employees (usually with the assistance of tax software).
For small businesses, annual tax accountants often charge between $500 and $2,500 (or even more) - and that’s only for tax filing. Since there is no tax planning involved, your tax savings can be as low as nothing.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a close relationship with your accountant despite only meeting annually, they may at least be able to help you claim some credits and deductions. Depending on your activity, situation, and industry, these can range in value significantly.
For some business owners, this is acceptable. However, there are more thorough services - like tax planning services - that can offer much better savings.
Saving on Taxes With a Year-Round Tax Planning Service
Tax planning services are less popular for small business owners, often because they’re skeptical of a larger investment that also has no guaranteed return. The tax savings can still be nothing, but they can also be worth tens of thousands of dollars.* The most that CSI Accounting & Payroll has ever saved a client on year-end taxes is $66,000.
*There are many variables that go into saving money on taxes. To learn more about what your situation may look like, please contact your tax professional or schedule a free consultation with CSI Accounting & Payroll.
Regardless, tax planning still often pays for itself - via taxes and other areas of value - within the first year of partnership. This can be true if the client is established, has profit (and therefore has tax), and has enough financial activity that an accountant can influence. The less you have going on, the less an accountant can help you - even in tax planning.
Tax planning includes measures that put you in an optimal position to avoid penalties and interest, plus claim credits and deductions.
Avoiding Penalties and Interest
A big part of tax savings is just avoiding penalties and interest. If you work with a tax planning service year-round, they make sure you avoid penalties like:
Failure to pay estimates (0.5% per month for every dollar owed, capped at 25%)
Failure to pay taxes (0.5% per month for every dollar owed, capped at 25%)
Failure to file (5% per month for every dollar owed, capped at 25%)
Overall, a tax planning service can save you an average of 5-25%. That means if you were to face a $10,000 tax bill, you could save $2,500 in avoided penalties and interest.
The fact of the matter is that if you’re doing your own bookkeeping year-round and only work with an annual tax accountant, you’re probably not as on top of taxes as you think you are.
Claiming Credits and Deductions
Aside from penalties and interest, there are also a variety of credits and deductions you can claim. Because of so much range in value here depending on your unique situation, we can’t put a dollar amount to it.
However, a tax professional who works with you year-round knows your business much better than a tax professional who only sees you at the end of the year. For this reason, a tax planning service has a better ability to help you claim all of the credits and deductions available to you.
If you are a new client of CSI Accounting & Payroll, for example, we have a series of setup meetings. During these meetings, we go over all of your claimed credits and deductions. We also look at the past to see if any were missed. Not every tax planning service will do this.
Total Annual Tax Savings
The actual amount of tax savings varies significantly. It can range from $0 (nothing) to tens of thousands of dollars.
As we mentioned above, in our more than 50 years of operations, the most that CSI Accounting & Payroll has ever saved a client on annual taxes is $66,000. In the first setup meeting, they raised a concern that they were overpaying on taxes with their prior accountant.
At first, we didn’t think too much of it; most people feel they pay too much in taxes. However, we always take a deep dive into new clients’ books.
We noticed that what they were telling us about their business didn’t line up with their finances. The client attended many trade shows out of state, but their tax return showed almost no travel expenses. In fact, many expenses were missing. Immediately, we realized the need for three years of back taxes.
During our examination, we found that their prior accountant wasn’t noting any expenses from credit cards. They’d never asked the client for their credit card statements and, instead, coded payments to pay off the credit cards as personal expenses.
While back work costs money, it can also save you enough to offset the cost - and then some. This particular client ended up profiting more than $50,000 from the process.
Other Savings Beyond Your Annual Taxes
While annual taxes are usually a small business accountant’s number one concern, there are other taxes, too! In fact, if we’re going as far as to count sales tax, we have another client who saved even more with our help.
The most CSI Accounting & Payroll has ever saved a client in sales tax is $130,000.
While looking at a new client’s books during onboarding, we noticed something odd - they were paying sales tax even though they didn’t need to. They had been paying it for years.
How can this be? They received a notice from the state that said they may be subjected to sales tax. Assuming their accountant would tell them if they were wrong, the business began paying sales tax on all of their revenue. (Luckily, they didn’t charge their customers this tax!)
Many accountants just take the numbers you give them and don’t question anything. If they only speak with you annually, they don’t know your business well enough to really question anything.
This client’s accountant also didn’t catch when the client’s bookkeeping software accidentally showed double the actual sales. We noticed that the actual sales in the client’s bank account were different, and that’s part of what led to us examining everything.
After catching these errors, we decided that after amending the tax returns, waiting for the refunds, and handling the audit that will likely be triggered for the client, we could retrieve about $130,000 of the sales tax back.
Legally Minimize Your Taxes With a Monthly Accounting Service
When you’re potentially facing a large tax bill, you want to go with the best investment to cut it down. An annual tax accountant and a tax planning service can both help you in this department.
However, a tax planning service will cost more while also offering a larger opportunity to save more on penalties and interest, plus claim more credits and deductions.
If tax planning sounds ideal to you, but you also want bookkeeping and advisory services included, monthly accounting might be exactly what you’re looking for!
To see if CSI Accounting & Payroll’s monthly accounting service is the right fit for your business, schedule a free consultation by clicking the button below:
Not ready to talk? That’s okay! First, learn more about small business taxes for beginners by clicking the image below:
Brian began working at CSI in 1996, and he purchased the business in 2002. As Owner, his primary role is in the management and growth of the firm. Since 2002, the firm has more than quadrupled in size. In 2009, Brian started CSI’s payroll service to complement CSI’s accounting and tax services. Brian received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota, with a double major in Accounting and Financial Management. He’s a member of both the National Society for Tax Professionals and the National Society for Accountants, and he serves on the board of directors for the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants, where he was once president. Brian also serves on the business advisory council for Opportunity Partners, an organization that helps people with disabilities find employment. He’s also contributed to several business books, including Six Steps to Small Business Success and The Lean Mean Business Machine. Fun Fact: To help put himself through college, he used student loans, delivered pizzas, and worked summers in a salmon processing plant in Alaska.