Farmers, like most people, want to protect their income as the deadline for filing taxes approaches. One of the most important ways for farmers to do this is to understand the best ways to decrease their tax liability.
Knowing that you need to decrease your tax liability and actually doing it are two drastically different things, however. In order to decrease your tax liability you must understand just what are considered allowable expenses and how to report those expenses.
In most cases, farmers are considered by the IRS to be self-employed. Therefore, they will report income on Form 1040 and then file the schedules that go along with that form. Self-employed farmers, or single-entity limited liability corporations, report income on Schedule F. By reporting income on Form 1040, farmers are able to use the cash method of accounting as opposed to the accrual method. The cash method means that expenses and income are claimed in real time.
The tax code for farmers is different than other businesses in that it incentivizes farmers for investing back into their farms. While most farmers are aware of how the tax code works, many times it remains in their best interest to work with an accountant who is familiar with the specific issues that surround farming operations. Such a tax professional also will be able to check and double check that farmers do not overpay in taxes.
One of the most surprising issues farmers face when filing taxes is proving that they are, in fact, operating a farm. There are various provisions in the federal tax code that define what is considered a qualified farm. To make matters even more complicated, state and local definitions of what exactly a farm is may vary, as well.
What follows are some general guidelines that ensure a farm is considered as such:
- It shows a profit every three to five years.
- It is operated in a business-like manner and the farmer who owns it is knowledgeable of farming practices.
- Farmers list personal money and farm money separately.
- Farm work and activities are well-documented.
- Proof is provided that any losses are due to legitimate reasons.
These guidelines, while specific, are not meant to penalize farmers. Rather, they are in place to protect legitimate farmers. In fact, if anything, the tax code is written to benefit farmers and decrease their tax burden.