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Small Business Tax Basics Explained

Kody Wirth

5 min. read

Updated January 5, 2024

Understanding the nuances of US business taxes can save you money and keep you compliant with federal regulations. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the essentials of small business taxes, the types to be aware of, how to file, and potential deductions that can benefit your bottom line.

*Disclaimer: The content and answers of this guide provide a general overview, but tax laws and regulations can be complex. It’s always recommended to consult with a tax professional or accountant for specific guidance tailored to your situation.

What are business taxes?

Business taxes are taxes imposed on businesses and corporations by government authorities. 

These taxes are based on the business’s structure, operations, and location. Different types of businesses are subject to specific tax regulations and rates.

What are the types of business taxes?

Every business, regardless of its size, will have tax obligations. However, the type and amount varies.

  • Income tax: All businesses, except partnerships, must file an annual income tax return. Partnerships file an information return. The form you use depends on how your business is organized.
  • Sales tax: A percentage added to the sale price of products or services. Businesses collect this from their customers and remit it to the state or local government..
  • Self-Employment tax: Primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It covers Social Security and Medicare.
  • Employment taxes: If you have employees, you must pay their employment taxes. This includes withholding income tax and paying Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment taxes.
  • Property tax: A tax that a business needs to pay based on the assessed value of its owned properties, such as commercial buildings, land, or equipment.
  • Excise tax: This applies to businesses that manufacture or sell certain products, operate certain kinds of businesses, use various kinds of equipment, or receive payment for services.

Note: Nonprofits and cooperatives have distinct tax obligations to be aware of.

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Filing your business taxes

With the right information and preparation, filing taxes can be smooth. First, be aware of deadlines, have all the necessary documentation, and understand your tax obligations.

Small business tax deductions and breaks

Understand and leverage small business tax deductions to significantly reduce your tax bill.

Employment taxes

If you have employees, you’re responsible for several additional taxes.

  • Federal income tax withholding: As an employer, you must withhold federal income tax from your employee’s wages.
  • Social security and medicare taxes: Employers must withhold a part of social security and Medicare taxes from employees’ wages and pay a matching amount.
  • Federal unemployment (FUTA) tax: This tax is not withheld from employee wages but is paid by the employer.

Check out these additional resources to understand taxes for different employee classifications.

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Tax implications for different business structures

Your business structure directly influences your tax obligations. Check out these resources to learn the unique tax implications of each structure.

Small business tax tips

Improve your understanding of business taxes with industry-specific tips and resources.

Taxes are just part of running a legitimate business

Understanding small business taxes is crucial for any entrepreneur. 

With the right knowledge and preparation, you can ensure compliance, optimize deductions, and set your business up for financial success.

But tax obligations are just part of the legal requirements you need to check off to start a business. While most can be completed in any order, here are some we recommend you explore:

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Content Author: Kody Wirth

Kody Wirth

Kody Wirth is a content writer and SEO specialist for Palo Alto Software—the creator's of Bplans and LivePlan. He has 3+ years experience covering small business topics and runs a part-time content writing service in his spare time.