As individuals and families get ready for the holidays and parties that come with this time of year, it is important for business owners to do their own preparation. For most small businesses, December 31 isn’t just the time to pop the cork on the champagne bottle, but also time to make sure that the year-end business tasks are finalized and start preparations to have a great 2010.

Maintaining and finalizing the year-end books and records can be a tedious task for small business owners, but it is also one of the most important. As soon as the Christmas wrapping paper is thrown away, tax season begins. For companies that have employees or independent contractors, it is important to talk to your tax preparer to ensure that W2s and 1099s are mailed to those individuals by the IRS deadline. By having all payroll records organized, you can make things easier for your accountant and your wallet. For companies with or without employees or independent contractors, having organized books and records (including receipts, mileage logs, and entertainment logs) ensures that your accountant can correctly prepare the business return and, many times, prevents having to file for an extension.

The end of the year is also a good time to have your company records reviewed by an attorney. For companies that are set up as sole proprietorships, a good business attorney can help you decide whether setting up a corporation or LLC can provide legal or tax benefits that you may be missing out on. A review of client contracts, lease agreements, and other legal documents can ensure that they comply with any changes in the law that may have come up in the last year (or longer if its been a while since you’ve had a good review).

Many business owners write a business plan when they start up and never review it again. For businesses that slow down during the holidays, it may be the perfect time to dust off that old business plan sitting on your shelf. Review it to determine whether you are where you want to be and, if you aren’t, what you need to do to get there. For most businesses, this has been a tough year; however, that doesn’t mean that you can’t look forward to building your business next year. Reflecting on what marketing has worked and what hasn’t can help you brew up new ideas to use next year. Whether it is a Facebook fan page for your business or sending holiday cards to clients, a renewed sense of purpose will give you something to work on while waiting for business to pick up. For business owners struggling, the Small Business Development Center and SCORE can both be great ways to get free help with business planning.

As always, this article is for informational purposes only and does not contain legal or tax advice. Please consult with your attorney or accountant for legal or tax advice to ensure that you end this year on the best possible note – and have a great 2010!