Free tax advice for small-business owners - straight from the IRS

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If you're running your own business or thinking about starting one up, take it from me, a freelancer for eight years, that tax prep is one of the hardest parts about being your own boss.

Sure, filling out tax returns is grueling for everyone, but us small-biz owners get an added knife-twist in the heart when we see how much we'll have to pay in Self-Employment and Social Security taxes.

Every tax-prep season comes with a shock or surprise about a new change in the tax law. Sometimes it's good (the business standard mileage rate was increased), sometimes it's not (self-employment income subject to Social Security taxes was just increased from $97,500 to $102,000.) Regardless, it's good to know how much more money Uncle Sam is going to take from you. This year, the Feds are going to help you find out.

This Wednesday, December 10, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering free tax advice for small-business owners during a live online chat. Tax expert Thomas P. Ochsenschlager of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants will start taking calls at 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m. Pacific. He'll spend an hour giving advice on year-end tax planning, and you can ask him questions about tax law changes, tax savings tips and tax mistakes to avoid. You can ask your questions beforehand so they're queued up for Ochsenschlager to answer right away. ((I can't make it, but can anyone ask how much the standard mileage rate will change?) Join the live Web chat on Wednesday by going to the SBA's website and click on "Online Business Chat."

If you're planning to start your own business, either because it's been a longtime dream or because you've just been laid off, I highly encourage you to listen in. Knowing how to handle business taxes before you become a business owner increases your changes of successful entrepreneurship.
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