Home Based Business Tax Benefits: The Top 5

Did you know owning a home based business has considerable tax benefits? The idea that only the rich have access to tax benefits is a myth!

The first step is to own a home based business and run it with the intention to make a profit. The important word there is “intention”. You don’t really have to make a profit to take advantage of these benefits. Now, you can begin a home based business for little cost and can run it part-time from your home while having a full-time job.

In time, and with some effort on your part, you will be able to leave your day job and work from your home full-time and take advantage of all of the benefits a home based business has. The best part is you can take advantage of the home based business tax benefits as soon as you start your new business!

Owning a home based business allows you to deduct some personal expenses you wouldn’t usually be able to deduct. These things include but are not limited to: dining out, a new computer for the office, dental and medical expenses, and some vacation related expenses. The money you can deduct for operating a home based business is not insignificant and can amount to well over ten thousand dollars.

Here are the top five deductible expenses for Home Based Businesses:

1. Vehicle Deduction

This IS the most complicated home based business tax benefit you get. It is also where most people get into trouble with the IRS because they didn’t correctly document their vehicle related deductions. If you are going to use vehicle deductions, I can not stress enough that you MUST document everything properly. Keeping a diary or travel log to track mileage, maintenance costs, etc. will save you time and many headaches.

How does the vehicle deduction work? Basically, you determine how much of the time you use your vehicle for your home based business as a percentage. You are then permitted to take that percentage of time and apply to the cost of operating your vehicle. For instance, if you use your vehicle 60 percent of the time for your home based business, you are permitted to deduct 60 percent of the costs of operating the vehicle.

2. Meals and Entertainment Deduction

First things first, in order to take advantage of this tax benefit, you must have proper documentation. This primarily means you need to save your receipts and record who you spoke to about your home business. Normally, you will be able to deduct up to 50 percent of the cost, but make sure you check beforehand.

As long as it is related to your home based business and document the costs properly, you can also deduct up to 100 percent of the expenses of entertaining people in your home. You may come to realize the tax benefits are much greater if you entertain in your home instead of taking someone to your favorite restaurant.

3. Home Office Deduction

This one of the more intricate home based business tax benefits, but it has the potential to save you thousands of dollars every year you own your business.

To claim the home office deduction:

1. You must render significant administrative or management activities for your business out of your home. For example, you do your paperwork, make calls, do your training, and perform other business functions out of a set area in your home.
2. You have no other office where you conduct significant management or administrative activities for your business.
3. You must use a specific part of your home exclusively for business. It doesn’t need to be an entire room though. A particular section will do.
4. You must use this designated section regularly for at least 45 minutes a day, four or more days a week. The work hours must not be occasional or sudden.

What can you deduct? You are permitted to deduct part of your home, utilities, and part of the interest and taxes you pay that are related to owning your home. You can also deduct office supplies like new computers, printers, phones and furniture used for your home business.

4. Travel Deduction

Did you know the Internal Revenue Code (Section 162) allows you to deduct “traveling expenses…while away from home in pursuit of a trade or business…”? As the owner of a home based business, you can visit family and friends all over the world and deduct some of the expenses associated with the trip. You just have to make sure at least half of the days of your trip are “business days”. Essentially, as long as you plan ahead and document properly, you can deduct a lot of the costs associated with traveling and vacationing… Every year. How is that for a home based business tax benefit?

5. Medical Expenses Deduction

In order to take advantage of this home based business tax benefit and, you will need to employ your spouse and cover them with a comprehensive family medical plan. This allows you to deduct all of the costs associated with the your family’s medical expenses. But, there two important requirements in order to take advantage of this deduction.

The first is you must have proof your spouse has done actual work for your home based business. The second is you must establish a legal document called a “Self Insured Medical Reimbursement Plan.” Do a search on that phrase in Google to see what that entails. It’s pretty straight forward.

That’s it. Utilizing these five strategies correctly will allow you to take full advantage of your Home Based Business Tax Benefits and can save you thousands of dollars every year. The best part is they are completely legal and ethical!

If you are not sure how to do anything mentioned in this article or have any other questions, please consult a tax professional. Do not assume what you are doing is correct until you speak with a tax professional.

Insurance Agency Lead Scoring

Many insurance agencies have not yet formalized their lead scoring system. This is a worthwhile endeavor for all agencies, and one which should be revisited every year, while tracking the return on investment of their marketing programs.

What is lead scoring? It is a methodology used to rank prospects against a scale, and then assign a value to determine interest level and distribution. For example, let’s say a trucking insurance lead appointment arrives at your agency. This lead is with an owner of 15 power units, they use company drivers, and they are unhappy with their carrier. Perhaps your lead scoring system falls on a 1 to 10 scale, and this lead is scored an 8. What might receive a higher score? And what types of leads are outside of profile, and what score would they receive? Perhaps prospects need to score an 8 to appear on your producer scorecards.

Is the lead distributed to producers by territory? Does your lead handling process vary by type of lead, product or prospect? For example, are commercial leads separated by large and small business, by industry or product? Are benefit leads parsed by groups over and under 50? And does your agency have a tracking system in place to determine how many leads showed for the appointment, moved into the pipeline, received quotes and ultimately convert into new business?

Salespeople, sales managers, producers and other business people often refer to prospects in vague terms such as: new, warm, hot, cold, likely, qualified, etc. These terms do little to better understand a sales pipeline or convey likelihood of purchase to other members of the team. Agencies can consider creating a simple prospect scorecard to resolve this issue and quantify their lead scoring. Formalizing lead scoring offers benefits such as:

Helps Producers create ideal attributes to form a buyer persona
Creates a simple numeric system to leverage your buyer persona
Assigns numeric values to rank your best prospects
Creates a simple qualification acronym to determine likelihood to close

What should be included in a prospect scorecard?

Use a prospect scorecard to quantify your approach to pipeline building. Some attributes of your ideal client might include revenue, growth rate, client type (business or consumer) and market niche. For example, are you targeting companies with $5m to $10m in revenue? Are your best prospects fast-growing firms, trucking companies, manufacturers or consumers?

If you’re selling to consumers, are they high net worth, middle-income, millennials or senior citizens? Are your prospects in a specific niche market such as banking, insurance, biotech, consulting, education, etc.? Create a scorecard with your ideal attributes and a customized qualification abbreviation to help you determine if you’re selling to an in-profile prospect.

Insurance agencies and brokers seeking to get to the next level with their insurance marketing and lead generation, but lacking the internal resources to achieve their marketing goals, can reach out to a proficient insurance agency marketing firm.

Health Is The Most Important Wealth

If you’re fortunate enough to have employer-provided health insurance, that narrows your options down to the plans that your employer offers. If you don’t have coverage through your job, perhaps an organization or association that you belong to will allow you to buy health insurance through them at a group rate.

Another option is to check your local Obamacare health insurance marketplace to see if you qualify for an upfront premium credit, which would get you reduced premium costs. Even if you don’t qualify for the credit right away, buying your health insurance through the marketplace means you may qualify for it when you file your tax return for the year.

If you can’t, or won’t, get health insurance from any of these sources, you’ll have to fall back on buying a private plan. It will give you the widest range of options, but likely will be far more expensive.

Decide which type of policy to buy

Health insurance policies come in a variety of basic types, although you may not have access to all of these options through your preferred source. Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) are a very common type of health insurance policy. With an HMO, you’re required to use healthcare providers within the policy’s network, and you have to get a referral from your primary care physician in order to see a specialist.

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) are also quite common. A PPO health insurance policy has a network, but you’re not limited to in-network care — although using network providers is cheaper — and you don’t need referrals to see specialists.

Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs) are a hybrid between HMOs and PPOs. You’re required to stick to the plan’s network, but don’t need referrals for specialists. Finally, Point of Service (POS) plans are a less common option that are essentially the opposite of an EPO. You’re not limited to the POS plan’s network, but do need a referral to see a specialist.

Of the four common types of plans, an HMO or EPO tends to be cheaper than a PPO or POS with the same level of coverage. However, if network coverage is poor in your area, or you’re uncomfortable limiting yourself to network providers, it may be worth paying a little more to get a PPO or POS policy.

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High deductible versus low deductible

All things being equal, the higher a plan’s deductible is, the lower the monthly premiums will be. A high deductible means that you’ll have to pay a lot of healthcare expenses yourself before the insurance policy kicks in, but if you have few or no medical expenses in a given year, these plans can be a bargain. Very low medical expenses means that you probably won’t surpass the deductible, even of a low-deductible plan, so getting a high-deductible plan keeps your insurance costs as low as possible while still protecting you in case something catastrophic happens.

If you decide to go the high-deductible route, getting a Health Savings Account (HSA)-enabled plan, and funding it with at least the equivalent of a year’s deductible, is your best option. An HSA plan neatly covers the biggest weakness of a high-deductible health insurance policy – namely, that you’d have to shell out a great deal of money on a major medical expense before the insurance would take over. If you have a full-year’s deductible tucked away in your HSA, you can just use that money to finance your share of the expenses, while simultaneously enjoying the triple tax advantage that an HSA offers.

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Comparing coverage

There are two major factors that affect how well a particular plan will cover your medical expenses: the plan’s network and its coverage policies. Even if you choose a plan with out-of-network options, like a PPO, you’re still better off using in-network health providers as much as possible because doing so will reduce your costs. And the rules that a given health insurance policy uses to decide what’s covered and what’s not – and how much the co-pays will be – can make a huge difference in how helpful a particular policy really is for you.

For example, if there’s a rather pricey medication that you take every day, you’ll definitely want to get a health insurance policy that lists that medication on its formulary. If you travel a lot, stick to plans that offer good out-of-area treatment options. And if you already have a primary care physician, you’ll definitely want to pick a plan that includes your doctor in its network.

Finding the best deal

If you’re stuck between two or three different policies and can’t decide which one to choose, try this exercise. Multiply the monthly premium by 12 to get your annual cost for a plan, then add in the plan’s out-of-pocket maximum. The result is the most you would end up spending on health care if you had one or more major medical expenses during the year. Do this calculation for each plan you’re considering, then compare the results. The plan with the lowest total is likely the best deal for you.