Tax Credits vs. Tax Deductions: What Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Need to Know

Tax Credits vs. Tax Deductions: What Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Need to Know

Tax credits vs. tax deduction - Get the important information around how to best approach this space in this article.

Tax Credits vs. Tax Deductions: What Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Need to Know

Tax Credits vs. Tax Deductions: What Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Need to Know

Tax season can be confusing for businesses of all sizes. One of the most significant sources of confusion is understanding the difference between tax credits and tax deductions. But fear not because we're here to break it down for you in simple terms. Knowing this difference is crucial for small and mid-sized businesses as it can impact your financial planning and potentially save you money.

Fundamental Differences: Tax Credits vs. Tax Deductions

Let's start by understanding the basic definitions of these terms.

Definition of Tax Deductions

Tax deductions are like discounts on your taxes. They lower the amount of your income that the government taxes you on. Think of it as getting a discount on your favorite pair of sneakers. For example, if your business made $100,000 in revenue and you have $20,000 in tax deductions, you only have to pay taxes on $80,000 of that revenue.

Example: Imagine you run a bakery, and your total income is $50,000. If you spend $10,000 on buying ingredients and supplies, that $10,000 can be deducted from your income. So, you only pay taxes on the remaining $40,000.

Definition of Tax Credits

Tax credits, on the other hand, are like gift cards for your taxes. They directly reduce the amount of money you owe in taxes, dollar for dollar. So, if you have a $1,000 tax credit, it means you owe $1,000 less in taxes.

Example: Let's say you run a tech company and qualify for a $10,000 tax credit for using renewable energy in your office. If your tax bill is $15,000, the $10,000 tax credit reduces it to just $5,000.

How They Affect Taxable Income and Tax Liability

Tax deductions reduce your taxable income, which is the amount of money the government considers when calculating your taxes. Tax credits directly reduce the amount of taxes you owe. So, while both can save you money, tax credits are usually more valuable because they reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Now, let's talk about the pros and cons of tax deductions and tax credits.

Benefits of Tax Deductions

Tax deductions are like the basics of saving money on your taxes. They help you lower your taxable income, which can lead to a smaller tax bill. They are available for various expenses, such as business expenses, depreciation, interest payments on business debts, and employee benefits.

Drawbacks of Relying Solely on Deductions

However, relying solely on tax deductions might not be the best strategy. While they can reduce your taxable income, they don't provide as much tax savings as credits do. Plus, some deductions have limits and restrictions, so you can't always deduct everything you spend.

Pros of Utilizing Tax Credits

Tax credits, on the other hand, are like the gold standard of tax savings. They directly reduce your tax bill, so you get to keep more of your money. There are various tax credits available for small and mid-sized businesses, and they can significantly impact your bottom line.

Cons of Overlooking Available Credits

The downside of tax credits is that some businesses might miss out on them because they are not aware of their eligibility or because they don't apply for them. It's crucial to stay informed about available credits to make the most of them.

Common Tax Deductions for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses

Let's dive into some common tax deductions that can benefit your business.

Business Expenses and Operating Costs

As a business owner, you can deduct many of your business expenses, such as office rent, utilities, insurance, and marketing costs. Keeping track of these expenses is essential to maximize your deductions.

Section 179D Deduction

The 179D deduction is a federal tax incentive program in the United States that encourages energy efficiency in commercial buildings. It allows building owners, designers, or contractors to claim tax deductions for making energy-efficient improvements in three key areas: HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, lighting, and the building envelope (such as insulation and windows).

The deduction amount is based on the energy efficiency improvements achieved, with higher deductions for more substantial energy savings. It's a way for businesses and property owners to reduce their federal income tax liability by investing in environmentally friendly building upgrades that conserve energy.

Interest Payments on Business Debts

If your business has loans, you can often deduct the interest paid on those loans. This can be a significant deduction, especially for businesses with large loans.

Employee Benefits and Retirement Contributions

Contributions to employee benefits and retirement plans can also be deducted. This not only benefits your employees but also lowers your taxable income.

Must-Know Tax Credits for Startups and SMBs (Small and Mid-Sized Businesses)

Now, let's explore some essential tax credits that can save your business money.

Research & Development (R&D) Credit

One tax credit that deserves special attention is the Research & Development (R&D) credit. This credit is designed to reward businesses that are investing money into building some sort of technology. If your business engages in activities like creating new products, processes, or software, you could be eligible for this credit!

There are four buckets of expenses you can pull from when calculating your R&D credit savings. These include:

  • W-2 Wages for any employee involved in R&D activities based in the U.S. – including supervision, support, or doing the actual work
  • Contractors who are U.S. based
  • Materials used for prototyping and development throughout the process of working on your product or service
  • For SaaS companies - cloud costs for your pre-production and staging environment (think Google cloud, AWS, Heroku, etc.)

The R&D credit can help offset the costs of research and development by reducing your tax liability. It's a dollar-for-dollar credit, meaning that if you qualify for a $30,000 R&D credit, you'll pay $30,000 less in taxes.

This credit is often overlooked, but it can be a game-changer for businesses looking to innovate and grow. It's a valuable incentive that can free up capital to invest in new projects and technologies.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit

This credit incentivizes hiring individuals from specific groups, such as veterans or individuals receiving government assistance. By hiring from these groups, your business can receive a tax credit.

Small Business Health Care Tax Credit

If you provide health insurance to your employees, you might be eligible for this credit, which can help offset the cost of providing healthcare benefits.

Renewable Energy Credits

If your business is eco-conscious and invests in renewable energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines, you can earn tax credits for your green efforts.

Maximizing Business Savings: Combining Deductions and Credits

To get the most out of your tax savings, it's a good idea to use both deductions and credits strategically.

Best Practices for Effective Utilization

Plan your expenses and investments carefully to take advantage of available deductions and credits. Consult with a tax professional to ensure you're making the most tax-efficient decisions.

Strategic Planning Throughout the Fiscal Year

Don't wait until tax season to think about deductions and credits. Throughout the year, keep records of your expenses and consider how they might impact your taxes.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Lastly, be aware of common mistakes that can cost you money. These might include missing deadlines, failing to document expenses properly, not seeking the help of an expert tax advisor or not seeking out available credits.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, understanding the difference between tax credits and tax deductions is vital for small and mid-sized businesses. By utilizing both effectively, you can save money and improve your bottom line. Don't be afraid to seek professional help to navigate the complex world of taxes. Remember, every dollar saved on taxes is a dollar that can be reinvested in your business's growth and success.

TaxTaker specializes in helping small and mid-sized businesses make the most of tax incentives like the R&D tax credit. Their experts can guide you through the process, ensuring you don't miss out on valuable opportunities to save money. 

Want to see how TaxTaker can help you claim the R&D tax credit and keep more money in your business?

Snag a free estimate with TaxTaker here.

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