What Tax Planning is and what it is not.
It is legal. Numerous tax code provisions prove the intentions of Congress to allow and/or encourage lawfully structuring of business and personal affairs to claim tax benefits (including deductions, exclusions, credits, and deferrals), on a fully disclosed basis. Claiming tax benefits in a manner consistent with federal statutes, state statutes, and Congressional purpose is part of sound planning.
It is ‘translated.’ A good tax planner does not simply recite complex statutes and case law to their client and then ask the client to trust them that the recommendation will reduce their taxes. Instead, proper tax planning involves explaining potentially sophisticated recommendations to clients in a manner that can be understood by non-tax professionals.
It is proactive. While operating a business, business owners conduct transactions every day. They make purchases, pay their employees, and invoice clients. Business owners know in order to minimize their inventory costs, they must negotiate all prices and term payments prior to placing an order. After the order is placed, there is very little they can do to change the price or terms of the purchase. This business principle also applies to tax planning. Unfortunately, business owners often forget tax altogether or put off thinking about tax until after the year is nearly over. Because there are far fewer means of reducing taxes once the year is complete, the result is almost certainly an overpayment of taxes, which reduces valuable cash flow throughout the year that could have been used instead to fund a project or pay employees. In contrast, when tax planning occurs at the beginning of the year, the number of strategies that can be implemented to reduce tax expands dramatically.
It is synergistic. Tax planning considers the tax consequences and benefits from multiple perspectives including personal benefit, business benefit, ownership’s succession wishes, current and desired retirement planning, ownership’s estate planning wishes, and asset protection. It also considers the impact of several laws, including federal income tax, federal employment/payroll tax, state taxes, creditor laws, and state legal structure. Similar to the various components a general contractor must consider when planning to build a house, a Strategic Tax Planning team must simultaneously contemplate diverse elements. If each aspect was viewed independently rather than with respect to its impact on all the other facets, the result would be one element may be optimized while tax may be substantially increased in another area. Therefore, because all aspects of a business owners’ tax situation are viewed in concert, the result is overall tax minimization and asset protection.
It is collaborative. Because Strategic Tax Planning examines several components concurrently, a team comprised of professionals with extensive education and experience are engaged to examine a business owners’ position. Based on area of expertise, each member conducts independent research in his/her area of expertise to outline recommendations to consider for the particular client. This team then assembles to discuss recommendations in each area. Because of the interrelation between the business owner and the business, and because of the relationships between different taxes, legal structure, industry, ownership, and employee census, some recommendations will overlap and decisions must be made jointly among the team as to what is optimal for the business owner. The result of the collaborative effort of all the professionals is a synergistic plan which has considered all aspects of the business owner, including the business, retirement, estate planning wishes, succession wishes, and asset protection.
It is not tax preparation. Tax preparation is accomplished by a competent professional who understands tax reporting. Tax preparation occurs after a period has completed. A tax preparer must use the financials, receipts, checkbook, and other reports to develop a government financial statement (also known as a tax return). The tax preparer is carefully reporting to the government what happened during the business year after the year is over. A tax preparer is a historian. A client’s trusted tax preparer is, however, an integral cog in the tax planning wheel. A preparer would be deployed to implement some of the recommendations within the business owner’s customized tax plan.