Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The average tax refund this year is more than $3,200. For a small business owner dancing on the entrepreneurial tight rope, juggling a pandemic, broken supply chains, and inflation, reinvesting that money into your business could be a much-needed lifeline
State of the economy aside, there’s one thing you can bet on when it comes to entrepreneurship: finding the money to run a business is hard work. The number one challenge small business owners face is accessing capital, a problem only exacerbated by bias, lack of credit history, and other obstacles typically reserved for woman- and minority-owned businesses. At Hello Alice, the company I co-founded five years ago, our data highlights the limitations that come with not having access to working capital, including attracting and retaining top-tier talent, slower revenue growth, and difficulties with inventory management. It’s why we’ve prioritized connecting small business owners to funding opportunities, like grants and fair lending – our data also shows that just $5,000 can make a difference in keeping a business alive.
Even for a healthy business, reinvesting your tax refund offers a chance to pay down credit cards, acquire assets, or pursue new opportunities. Our most recent data indicates that 84% of small business owners want to expand their business this year.
If you’re looking to grow your small business with a tax refund, here are a few great places to start.
1. Pay down your debt
Running a small business is a delicate balancing act. Trust me, I’ve been on the losing side of that balance with my first failed business nearly fifteen years ago. If you’re among the 38% of entrepreneurs with outstanding debt, you’re likely no stranger to juggling credit cards, business loans, or the money lent to you by friends or family, all of which help tide over unforeseen disruptions in cash flow , open the door to new opportunities, and allow you to grow.
There are numerous methods for paying your debt down responsibly, but here are a few things to consider:
- Pay down high-interest debt first — don’t let it spiral out of control and put your credit score and business at risk
- Have multiple credit cards? Assess your APRs and balances and start by paying off the one costing you the most
- Consider using a credit card payoff app like Tally to manage and consolidate all your cards in one place and pay off your debt, potentially at a lower interest rate
2. Advertise, advertise, advertise
DIYing your way through advertising makes sense when you’re bootstrapping. Instagram and TikTok accounts are free. You get to have full creative control of your content, be your authentic self (and brand), engage with your market, test your messaging and more — all without spending a dime. But the algorithms! The ever-changing technology. The competition. It’s another full-time job! Little wonder our recent data indicates that 15% percent of women entrepreneurs and 11% of their male counterparts list brand awareness as their number one challenge.
With a refund in hand, there are a number of ways to boost your reach:
- Upgrade your website or e-commerce platform — now is the time to invest in plugins that can save you time and money
- Retain a copywriter to upgrade your social, email, or content marketing
- Invest in new promotional materials or professional branding or rebranding — never underestimate the power of your logo, vision statement, and voice!
- Attend a trade show
Investing in digital ads or a paid social media campaign is another great option if you’re ready for it — a sleek website, campaign strategy, ad positioning, analytics know-how, and the budget and focus to achieve your ROIs are all musts. Even with all of those pieces at the ready, you’ll still want to test and iterate for the right advertising mix; otherwise, you may hemorrhage money pretty fast. Alternatively, consider putting more effort into your organic posts and surveys (and perhaps even hiring some help to do so).
3. Contribute to your retirement
Want your refund to go directly toward lowering your tax bill for next year and saving for your future? Contributing to a SEP-IRA or a solo 401(k) can be a great tax benefit that helps you plan for life after entrepreneurship (if there is such a thing!).
Here’s how much you could contribute and get a tax break when you file next year:
- For a solo 401(k): $20,522 in pre-tax earnings (plus $6,500 more if you’re 50 or older)
- For a SEP-IRA: 25% of net self-employment income (or up to $58,000)
4. Invest in better equipment and tools
In the day and age of e-commerce and remote work, we rely on technology to help us succeed, but we also seem to wear down our computers twice as fast. Reinvesting in your most valuable equipment when you have cash to cover it can spare you some major stress down the line. The bonus? It may qualify as a tax write-off for your business next year.
Here are a few more upgrades and tools to consider investing in:
- Home office improvements or new office furniture
- A new POS system
- Accounting, payroll, invoicing, CRM, or inventory management software
- A conference, retreat, webinar, or class that helps grow your business — not equipment, sure, but a valuable tool that could lead to an “aha!” moment and generate more revenue
5. Invest in a CPA
If I can offer one piece of advice, it’s this: Reinvest your tax refund into finding and working with a CPA on next year’s taxes (and every tax season after that). We may live in a world where automation has made keeping your books and finances in order much easier, but software can’t come close to having a knowledgeable tax professional in your corner. And a strong relationship with a reputable accountant can not only uncover valuable future refunds, navigate ever-changing tax laws, and keep you on the up-and-up with the IRS, but they’ll also help you analyze your books to grow your business.
Are you looking for a trusted business advisor? A mentor? A confidante who can help you determine the value of your business, the most appropriate financing or funding opportunity to pursue, and when you should consider taking the S-Corp election? A CPA can be all of these and more.
Find an accounting professional who understands your business, industry and local tax law, so they can identify all your tax breaks, best reduce your tax burden, and set you up for success. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ searchable directory is a great place to start!
One more thing: There’s no right or wrong way to pour your tax refund back into your small business. I’ve found in my own journey that getting clear on priorities often leads to the breakthroughs we need to succeed, so follow your own path – even if that means a well-deserved vacation on a remote island without your laptop. Here’s to reinvesting in your growth.