Every year-end brings with it not just the holiday spirit, but also the underlying dread felt by small business owners – a creepy and back-of-your-neck hair-raising feeling associated with annual business tax reporting and filing. That old saying about “death and taxes” has a lot of validity to it; sometimes they feel like the same thing to a small business owner. And this is the filing season. Ho ho ho.
The reporting requirements for small businesses seem to be growing at a rapid pace, and business owners are struggling to find the information and tools that ease the adjustment to increasingly burdensome reporting and compliance. The IRS has implemented a number of measures to increase tax revenues and enforce compliance, including stricter 1099 reporting requirements. With information provided at both ends of the “transaction” it is easier to identify those discrepancies which trigger audits. With this type of business intelligence, the IRS has developed a fairly strong weapon to combat non-compliance, so small business owners need to really pay attention (the IRS is). If the feds are tooling up, then business owners should, too.
Just to add to the seasonal festivities, make sure you upgrade your accounting software in time to benefit from the right rules and forms. If you run a small business and keep most of your information on spreadsheets (still? really?), that’s OK because there are solutions available which draw the information from spreadsheets, eliminating the need to re-enter data. Seriously, though, you should consider using actual bookkeeping or accounting software.
It is also important to remember that payroll tax filing dates for W-2s and 1099 forms were changed for 2016 taxes, and these changes continue for 2017. The filing deadline for 2017 W-2s and 1099 forms (including Form 1099-MISC) is January 31, 2018, which is a month earlier than the pre-2017 filing date. Thankfully, the deadline for providing W-2 forms to employees and 1099-MISC forms to other workers for 2017 has not changed. This deadline is still January 31, 2018.
Using a cloud-based service to file 1099s online should be something your business considers doing if it isn’t already. Because most services include form and feature updates, users don’t have to go looking for the right documents or worry that they are using an outdated form. In an online or hosted solution, users benefit from updates without downloads and get stricter security around their data than would likely be present on their own PC. As it relates to your accounting software, make sure it has the capabilities you need in this area and don’t settle for limited functionality.
Here are some features you’ll want to look for in your e-filing solution this year:
- The ability to print and/or mail forms to recipients as well as e-filing forms directly with the IRS or SSA
- Have Form 1096 or W-3 automatically calculated and transmitted electronically with the detail forms
- Upload volumes of data with Excel templates or import from your accounting software (saves time and reduces input errors)
- Store data securely and provide full access to filed forms for multiple years
- Maintain payer and recipient records securely for use year after year.
- Encrypt data upon submission and keep it encrypted throughout the entire process
- Supports 1099 Corrections (should allow filing of corrected forms regardless of how the original form was filed)
- Accountants, Bookkeepers and Tax Preparers should be able to set up multiple payers and file on behalf of many clients from a single account, even filing for all clients at once or via batch submission
Year-end tax filing, especially dealing with 1099s and W2s, is an arduous task for most small businesses and their professional service providers, yet it is one of those things that simply can’t be put off. Where there is a single income tax return there could be literally hundreds of associated 1099s or W2s to file. 1099 filing in particular has become more of a focus as authorities crack down on contractor versus employer classifications and seek to develop easier identification of audit candidates (something every business owner wants to avoid).
The point of the discussion is that there are cloud-based tools which are highly useful, feature rich, and very affordable… and business owners and their accountants or bookkeepers would be wise to take a look rather than assuming that the general accounting software will do the trick this year and the next. Remember that tax filing season is an annual event, and being able to rely on a consistently useful solution can make the season a bit merrier (or at least a little less stressful) for all.