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Chapter 9

How to prepare tax returns


Table of contents

Accountant & bookkeeper guides > How to do bookkeeping > How to prepare tax returns

Tax can be tricky for small business owners. There are lots of deadlines to make, and even more rules to follow. Let’s take a look at what it involves.

What is tax filing?

Businesses generally have to file three main types of tax return:

  • Sales tax
    This is a tax that you may have to add to your prices. The government expects you to collect that cash on their behalf and send it their way at set times.

  • Income tax
    This is calculated as a proportion of your profits. 

  • Employee-related taxes
    You’re expected to withhold income tax from your employees’ wages and hand it over to the tax office.

Why does it matter?

Paying too much tax is like giving money away. Paying too little can get you in trouble. Getting it right greatly increases your chance of running a profitable and relatively trouble-free business.


How to file taxes

Filing taxes is the easy part. It can generally be done online, which is a huge step up from the days of paper returns. Preparing those returns is the trickier part.

sales tax

These are often handled by a bookkeeper throughout the year. They’ll keep tabs on what you’ve collected then put together a report for the tax office. Any taxes due are generally paid when the report is filed.

Business tax

This is calculated on profits. The higher they are, the more tax you pay. But there are ways to legitimately lower your profits in the eyes of the tax office. This is where things get technical, and the stakes are high because your returns will be checked by government tax experts. That’s why most businesses get an accountant to prepare their income tax return.

Employee tax

These are calculated and collected from employee pay at every pay run. You’re required to file reports with the tax office saying how much you paid your employees and how much tax you withheld. They will tell you when to turn over the money to them.


Modern tax filing

Tax time isn’t the ordeal it used to be. Accounting software can do a lot of the grunt work so filing time is easier for your accountant or bookkeeper. For example, accounting software can estimate taxes owed and quickly produce the reports needed to finalize a tax return. These efficiencies make tax season less stressful and less expensive. 

modern tax filing

Figure 8, Data flows into your accounting system which then produces reports showing what tax you owe.

Because accounting software has a record of all the money coming and going from your business, it can quickly run the math to estimate your taxes.


Chapter 10: Using bookkeeping software

Bookkeepers handle a heck of a lot of data, at speed. Learn how bookkeeping software makes things go smoothly.

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