In this comprehensive article, readers will learn about tax exemptions, their purpose, benefits, and various types depending on the taxpayer’s status. The article explores the historical context of personal tax exemptions in the USA, standard deductions versus itemized deductions, and the most common tax exemptions and deductions available for individuals.
It also delves into tax exemptions applicable to businesses and organizations, with an overview of the application process and the controversies surrounding tax exemptions and the debates on tax equity and reforms.
Understanding Tax Exemptions
A tax exemption is a provision in a country’s tax code that reduces or eliminates a taxpayer’s responsibility to pay taxes on a certain type or portion of income. Tax exemptions are a critical aspect of tax policy as they offer relief to specific segments of the population and encourage particular economic behaviors.
In order to make informed tax planning decisions, it’s important to understand the definition, types, purpose, benefits, and impact of tax exemptions on your tax liability and taxable income.
What Are Tax Exemptions?
Tax exemptions are legally permitted deductions, exclusions, or reductions that enable a taxpayer to avoid a portion or all of their tax responsibility. These exemptions are typically granted by the government to encourage certain behaviors or relieve specific groups from bearing the burden of taxes.
They reduce one’s taxable income, ultimately lessening the tax liability, and can be claimed for various reasons such as personal exemptions, dependent exemptions, or because of specific qualifying events.
Types of Tax Exemptions
Tax exemptions can take various forms and cater to specific groups or types of income. Some common types of tax exemptions include:
- Personal Exemptions: These exemptions apply to individual taxpayers and their dependents. They are given based on the taxpayer’s filing status and are meant to reduce taxable income.
- Dependent Exemptions: Taxpayers can claim an exemption for each dependent they support. Dependents typically include children or other relatives relying on the taxpayer financially.
- Standard Deductions: These are preset amounts taxpayers can subtract from their taxable income, regardless of expenses. The standard deduction amount varies based on the taxpayer’s filing status and tax year.
- Itemized Deductions: Taxpayers can choose to deduct qualifying expenses instead of taking the standard deduction. Some common itemized deductions include mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and medical expenses.
- Exemption for Certain Income Types: Some types of income are granted tax-exempt status due to policy decisions, such as municipal bond interest, foreign-earned income, and certain types of Social Security benefits.
Purpose and Benefits of Tax Exemptions
The purpose of tax exemptions is to provide relief to specific segments of the population or encourage certain economic behaviors. Tax exemptions can serve various objectives, including:
- Redistributing wealth by providing relief to low-income households, reducing their tax burden and boosting disposable income.
- Encouraging investments in specific sectors or types of assets (such as exempting interest on municipal bonds).
- Promoting certain economic or social behaviors, like supporting charitable organizations through deductible donations or promoting home ownership through mortgage interest deductions.
- Reducing tax burdens on certain groups, like families with children (through dependent exemptions) or senior citizens (through additional personal exemptions).
Overall, tax exemptions benefit taxpayers by reducing their taxable income, allowing them to pay lower taxes, and promoting economic growth through targeted incentives.
Impact on Tax Liability and Taxable Income
Tax exemptions impact both tax liability and taxable income for taxpayers. They lower the tax liability by reducing taxable income, which is the amount of income subject to taxation. The greater the number of exemptions, deductions, or credits a taxpayer can claim, the lower their tax liability and the amount of tax they must pay.
When calculating taxable income, a taxpayer first starts with their gross income, then subtracts any eligible exemptions, deductions, or credits. The remaining amount is the taxable income, which is used to determine the tax liability for the tax year.
It’s important to note that tax exemptions should not be confused with tax deductions and tax credits, which also offer tax benefits to taxpayers. While tax exemptions and tax deductions both reduce taxable income, tax credits directly reduce the amount of tax owed dollar for dollar. Understanding these distinctions and utilizing eligible tax exemptions can help taxpayers minimize their tax liability and lower their overall tax burden.
Personal Tax Exemptions
Understanding personal tax exemptions is essential for taxpayers to minimize their tax burden and ensure they are in compliance with the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) requirements. A tax exemption, as the name suggests, exempts certain income or expenses from being considered as taxable income. Personal tax exemptions specifically refer to the exemptions applicable to an individual taxpayer or their dependents.
In this section, we will cover the historical context of personal exemptions in the United States, the rules governing dependents and qualifying relatives, and the exemption phase-out (again, in a historical context).
Personal Exemptions in the USA (Historical Context)
Personal exemptions have undergone several changes throughout the history of the United States income tax system. Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, taxpayers were allowed to claim personal exemptions on their income tax returns. This would reduce their taxable income accordingly, and as a result, lower their tax liability.
For instance, in 2017, each personal exemption was valued at $4,050 per person. This meant that a taxpayer with a spouse and two children could claim four exemptions, totaling $16,200, which would be deducted from their gross income to arrive at their taxable income.
However, the TCJA, which came into effect on January 1, 2018, eliminated personal exemptions for taxpayers until the end of 2025. This change was seen as a trade-off for other tax benefits introduced by the TCJA, such as an increased child tax credit.
Dependents and Qualifying Relatives
Despite the elimination of personal exemptions, the IRS still requires taxpayers to determine if they have any dependents or qualifying relatives for other tax benefits.
A dependent is someone for whom a taxpayer provides financial support, such as a child or a relative. Dependents can fall into two categories – qualifying children or qualifying relatives.
A qualifying child must meet certain criteria, such as being under the age of 19 (or 24, if a full-time student), living with the taxpayer for more than half of the year, and not providing over half of their own support during the year.
A qualifying relative, on the other hand, is someone who does not meet the requirements to be considered a qualifying child but lives with the taxpayer for the entire year as a member of their household. Additionally, their total gross income must be below a set threshold for the year, and the taxpayer must provide more than half of their total support for the year.
Having dependents or qualifying relatives can potentially make a taxpayer eligible for benefits such as the child tax credit, dependent care credit, and the earned income tax credit.
Exemption Phase-out (Historical Context)
Prior to the TCJA, personal exemptions were subject to phase-out rules, which reduced or eliminated exemptions for taxpayers with higher incomes. The phase-out was based on the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) and was designed to prevent high-income taxpayers from fully benefiting from personal exemptions.
The phase-out formula would determine an individual’s exemption amount by taking into account their AGI, the phase-out threshold for their filing status, and a fixed percentage. As the taxpayer’s AGI increased above the phase-out threshold, their personal exemptions were reduced incrementally until completely phased out.
However, with the elimination of personal exemptions under the TCJA, the phase-out rules no longer apply, and taxpayers are not subjected to these reductions regardless of their income level.
In summary, personal tax exemptions were a valuable tool for taxpayers in reducing their taxable income and had evolved over the years to accommodate various income levels and familial structures. Due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, personal tax exemptions no longer exist, but understanding their historical context and the need to determine dependents and qualifying relatives can be helpful for taxpayers to optimize their tax strategies and eligibility for other tax credits and benefits.
Standard Deduction vs. Itemized Deductions
When it comes to filing your income taxes, one of the critical decisions you have to make is whether to take the standard deduction or choose to itemize your deductions. Both options have their pros and cons, and the right choice largely depends on your individual financial situation.
Understanding Standard Deduction
The standard deduction is a fixed amount that taxpayers can subtract from their adjusted gross income (AGI) to reduce their taxable income. This deduction is available to all taxpayers and varies based on the taxpayer’s filing status, age, and whether they are blind or disabled.
For the tax year 2021, the standard deduction amounts are as follows:
- Single or married filing separately: $12,550
- Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er): $25,100
- Head of household: $18,800
The primary advantage of taking the standard deduction is that it is straightforward and easy to apply. You don’t need to gather receipts or compile a list of your expenses; you simply select the appropriate standard deduction amount for your filing status. It also reduces the chances of audit as there are no itemized deductions to scrutinize.
However, the standard deduction may not provide the maximum tax savings for some taxpayers, especially if they have high deductible expenses that exceed the standard deduction amount.
Understanding Itemized Deductions
Itemized deductions allow taxpayers to deduct specific allowable expenses from their AGI to reduce their taxable income. These deductions require a detailed record of your expenses throughout the tax year, including receipts and documentation.
Common itemized deductions include:
- Medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5% of your AGI
- State and local income taxes or sales taxes (up to a $10,000 limit)
- Property taxes
- Mortgage interest on the first $750,000 of debt ($1 million for loans taken before December 15, 2017)
- Charitable contributions
- Casualty and theft losses related to federally declared disasters
- Job-related and miscellaneous expenses subject to a 2% AGI floor (unreimbursed employee expenses, tax preparation fees, etc.)
Itemizing deductions may provide more significant tax savings for taxpayers who have substantial deductible expenses. However, the process of itemizing deductions is complicated and time-consuming. It also increases the risk of audit since the IRS can scrutinize each deduction, and any discrepancies or disallowed deductions can result in additional taxes, penalties, and interest.
Choosing Between Standard Deduction and Itemized Deductions
Deciding whether to take the standard deduction or itemize your deductions depends on your individual financial circumstances. Here are some factors to consider when making this decision:
- Compare the amounts: Estimate your total itemized deductions and compare them with the standard deduction for your filing status. If your itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction, itemizing may result in greater tax savings.
- Complexity and time: Itemizing deductions can be complex and time-consuming, requiring you to gather documentation and possibly seek professional help. If the potential tax savings from itemizing are relatively small, the additional effort might not be worth it.
- Risk of audit: As mentioned earlier, itemizing deductions increases the risk of audit. If you choose to itemize, ensure that you maintain accurate records and have proper documentation to support your deductions.
- Changes in tax laws: Tax laws change periodically, which can affect the standard deduction or itemized deductions. Stay updated on the latest tax law changes and consider how they may impact your decision.
In summary, the decision to choose either the standard deduction or itemized deductions depends on your personal financial situation, the amount of your deductible expenses, and your willingness to invest the time and effort required to itemize. Taxpayers should evaluate their situation annually, as circumstances may change from year to year.
Common Tax Exemptions and Deductions
Tax exemptions and deductions are a crucial way for individuals to lower their tax liability and save money on their tax bill. These tax breaks are designed to ease the burden on taxpayers by allowing them to lower their taxable income based on certain financial circumstances, expenses, and investments.
Mortgage Interest Deduction
The mortgage interest deduction is a common tax break that allows taxpayers to deduct the interest paid on their primary residence or a second home, up to a specific limit. This can be a significant tax savings, particularly for those with substantial mortgage debt. To qualify for the mortgage interest deduction, the taxpayer must itemize their deductions on Schedule A of their federal tax return.
For mortgages taken out after December 15, 2017, the deduction applies to interest on up to $750,000 of loan principal ($375,000 for married taxpayers filing separately). For mortgages taken out before this date, the interest deduction applies to up to $1,000,000 of loan principal ($500,000 for married taxpayers filing separately).
Charitable Donations Deduction
Another popular tax deduction is the charitable donations deduction, which allows taxpayers to deduct contributions made to qualified charitable organizations. Generally, taxpayers can deduct cash contributions as well as the fair market value of any non-cash contributions, such as property or goods. It is essential to keep records of all donations, including receipts or written acknowledgments from the charitable organization, to provide proof of the donation when filing taxes.
Taxpayers must itemize their deductions to claim the charitable donations deduction. In most cases, the total deductible amount is limited to 50% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). However, this limit may vary depending on the type of organization and donation.
Medical Expenses Deduction
The medical expenses deduction allows taxpayers to deduct certain medical and dental expenses incurred during the tax year that exceed a specific threshold. To qualify, the taxpayer must itemize their deductions and have medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their AGI for the tax year.
Eligible expenses include payments for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of disease, as well as insurance premiums for medical and dental policies. Expenses for cosmetic procedures or non-prescription medications are generally not deductible.
State and Local Taxes (SALT) Deduction
The SALT deduction allows taxpayers to deduct certain state and local taxes paid during the tax year. These deductions can include state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax. Taxpayers must itemize their deductions on Schedule A to claim the SALT deduction.
There is a cap on the total amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted, set at $10,000 ($5,000 for married taxpayers filing separately) per tax year. This cap applies to any combination of state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax paid.
Educational Tax Credits and Deductions
There are several tax credits and deductions available to taxpayers for education expenses. Two of the most popular are the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC). Both credits can help reduce the tax bill by offsetting some of the costs of tuition and fees for eligible students.
The AOTC is a credit of up to $2,500 per eligible student and is available for the first four years of post-secondary education. The LLC allows for a credit of up to $2,000 per return and is available for all years of post-secondary education as well as courses to acquire or improve job skills. Income limits apply to both credits, and taxpayers must meet certain eligibility criteria to claim them.
Additionally, the tuition and fees deduction allows taxpayers to deduct up to $4,000 in qualified education expenses paid for themselves, their spouse, or a dependent. Like the AOTC and LLC, this deduction is subject to income limits and other eligibility requirements.
Tax Exemptions for Businesses and Organizations
Tax exemptions are reductions in tax liability that governments offer to certain organizations and businesses. They may come in the form of income tax exemptions, property tax exemptions, or sales tax exemptions. Tax exemptions are essential for businesses and organizations as they allow them to invest more of their revenue into their business operations and encourage economic growth.
Nonprofit organizations are typically eligible for tax exemptions because they provide services or support to the public without the aim of making a profit. The most common tax exemption for nonprofits is the 501(c)(3) designation, which exempts the organization from federal income tax.
To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, a nonprofit must meet certain criteria, including:
- Having an exempt purpose such as charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary work.
- Not distributing earnings to any individual, with the exception of reasonable compensation for services.
- Not participating in or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.
Additionally, some states offer property tax exemptions for nonprofits that use their property to support their charitable mission. Sales tax exemptions for nonprofits may also be available, varying based on the state or local jurisdiction.
Small Business Tax Exemptions
Small businesses can benefit from various tax exemptions to help them grow and stabilize their operations. Some of these exemptions include:
- Section 179 Deduction: This provision allows small business owners to deduct the cost of certain property and equipment in the year they are purchased and put into use, rather than depreciating the cost over several years.
- Qualified Business Income Deduction (QBI): This federal income tax deduction allows eligible pass-through entities, such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations, to deduct up to 20% of their qualified business income.
- Startup Costs Deduction: Small businesses can deduct up to $5,000 of startup costs in their first year of operation. Any costs above $5,000 can be amortized over 15 years.
- Home Office Deduction: Small business owners who work from home may qualify for a home office deduction, which allows them to deduct certain expenses related to their home office space.
- Health Insurance Deduction: Self-employed individuals, including small business owners, can deduct the cost of health insurance premiums for themselves and their families.
Research and Development Tax Credits
Research and development tax credits aim to incentivize businesses that invest in creating or improving products, processes, or software. These credits, available at both the federal and state levels, can significantly offset the costs associated with research and development projects.
To qualify for R&D tax credits, businesses must meet the following criteria:
- Engage in a research and development project that involves the development or improvement of a product, process, or software.
- Overcome technological uncertainties or challenges during the project.
- Follow a systematic approach to research and development, such as using experimentation or testing.
The amount of credit a business can receive varies based on the level of investment and the specific tax credit program. Some states also offer refundable R&D tax credits, which allow businesses to receive a refund if their credits exceed their tax liability.
Green Energy Tax Credits
Green energy tax credits are designed to encourage businesses to invest in, produce, or use renewable and alternative energy sources. These tax credits can help businesses offset the cost of implementing environmentally sustainable practices and technologies.
Some common green energy tax credits include:
- Investment Tax Credit (ITC): This federal tax credit supports businesses that invest in solar energy systems, fuel cells, and other renewable energy equipment. The credit is based on a percentage of the investment cost and can offset federal income tax liability.
- Production Tax Credit (PTC): This credit supports businesses involved in the production of renewable energy, such as wind or solar power. The credit is based on the amount of electricity generated and is available for a specified number of years.
- Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit: This credit supports businesses that purchase or lease certain alternative fuel vehicles, including electric cars and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
- State-Specific Green Energy Tax Credits: Various states offer their green energy tax credits, incentives, or grants to support businesses that invest in renewable energy or adopt environmentally sustainable practices.
Application Process for Tax Exemptions
The application process for tax exemptions varies depending on the type of exemption and the tax-filing jurisdiction. Tax exemptions can generally be classified into two categories: personal exemptions and organizational exemptions. Personal exemptions are claimed by individual taxpayers, while organizational exemptions apply to nonprofit organizations, churches, schools, and other entities.
Gathering Required Documentation
To apply for tax exemptions, it is essential to gather and maintain accurate documentation as it will be required during the application process. For personal tax exemptions, the required documentation typically includes proof of income, such as W-2 or 1099 forms, proof of deductions, such as receipts for business expenses or charitable donations, and personal identification documentation for all individuals claimed, such as Social Security numbers.
If applying for exemptions based on dependent status, supporting documentation may be required, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, and proof of residency. Those eligible for tax exemptions due to retirement, disability, or other specific categories should gather documentation demonstrating eligibility, such as retirement or disability statements and medical records.
For organizations seeking tax-exempt status, they need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Additionally, these organizations must provide documentation supporting their eligibility for the exemption, including articles of incorporation, bylaws, mission statements, financial statements, and detailed descriptions of programs or services provided.
Filing Tax Returns with Exemptions
Once the required documentation has been gathered, individuals and organizations can proceed with filing their tax returns, including any applicable exemptions. For personal tax exemptions, taxpayers should consult the IRS or specific state tax authority guidelines for instructions on claiming various exemptions on their tax returns. Generally, exemptions are claimed as credits or deductions on the tax return form, which will ultimately reduce the taxpayer’s taxable income and tax liability.
For organizations seeking tax-exempt status, the application process may be more in-depth. In the United States, for example, organizations must file Form 1023 (or 1023-EZ for smaller organizations) with the IRS to apply for tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the most common form of tax-exempt status for nonprofits. This form requires detailed information about the organization’s finances, governing structure, and activities. Some states may also have specific tax exemptions and require separate applications with state tax authorities.
After filing tax returns with the appropriate exemptions, taxpayers should keep thorough records of all supporting documentation in case future audits or inquiries from tax authorities occur. If approved, the exemption(s) will generally remain in effect as long as the individual or organization continues to meet eligibility requirements.
Amending Tax Returns to Claim Exemptions
In some instances, taxpayers may realize that they overlooked claiming a tax exemption on a previously filed return. In such cases, it may be possible to amend the tax return and claim the exemption retroactively. To do this, taxpayers must file an amended tax return using the appropriate form, such as Form 1040X for individual taxpayers in the United States. This form typically requires taxpayers to provide explanations for the changes being made to their original return, including the reasons for claiming the exemptions.
When amending a tax return, taxpayers should gather all relevant documentation to support the exemption claim, as tax authorities may request this information during the amendment review process. It should be noted that there are typically time limits for amending tax returns to claim exemptions, so it is important for taxpayers to act promptly if they believe they have overlooked a valid exemption.
In conclusion, the process for applying for tax exemptions requires advanced preparation, gathering documentation, and proper filing procedures. By following these steps, taxpayers can minimize their tax liability and ensure that they are taking full advantage of the exemptions for which they qualify.
Tax Exemption Controversies and Reforms
The concept of tax exemptions has been a source of significant controversy and debate in recent years. A tax exemption is a governmental policy that reduces or eliminates the tax liability of certain individuals, organizations, or transactions. It is typically justified on the grounds of promoting social welfare, stimulating economic growth, or providing relief to low-income earners.
However, critics argue that tax exemptions can be unfair, inefficient, and vulnerable to abuse. In this section, we will examine the main sources of contention surrounding tax exemptions and the recent efforts to reform them.
Debate Over Tax Equity
One of the main tensions at the heart of tax exemption controversies is the issue of tax equity, or the fairness of the tax system. Proponents of tax exemptions argue that they are necessary to ensure that the benefits of public programs and services are distributed equitably across society. By targeting specific groups, such as the elderly, the disabled, or the poor, tax exemptions can help to alleviate income disparities and promote social and economic cohesion.
On the other hand, opponents of tax exemptions argue that they undermine the principle of horizontal equity, which states that individuals in similar economic circumstances should be treated equally under the tax code. By granting preferential treatment to particular groups, and increasing the tax burden on others, tax exemptions can contribute to an unequal distribution of tax liability across the population.
Moreover, critics claim that some tax exemptions disproportionally benefit the wealthy, such as those related to capital gains taxes, mortgage interest deductions, and charitable contributions, exacerbating income inequality. They argue that targeted tax credits or direct government spending would be a more progressive and effective way of addressing issues like poverty or social inequality.
Tax Exemption Abuse and Fraud
Another significant controversy associated with tax exemptions is the potential for abuse and fraud. There have been many cases where individuals or organizations have exploited tax exemptions to evade taxes, perpetrate financial fraud, or engage in criminal activities.
A notable example is the misuse of tax-exempt organizations, such as charities, to launder money or finance terrorism. In some cases, tax-exempt entities have been used to promote political agendas or engage in for-profit business activities. Such abuses not only undermine the integrity of the tax system but also harm the reputation of legitimate tax-exempt organizations that are genuinely engaged in promoting social welfare or supporting charitable causes.
Governments worldwide recognize the need to prevent and prosecute tax exemption abuse and have implemented various measures, such as increased reporting requirements, stricter enforcement, or limiting the scope of tax exemptions. Nonetheless, the fight against tax evasion and fraud remains an ongoing challenge.
Tax Reform and the Future of Tax Exemptions
In recent years, tax exemptions have become an area of focus for reform efforts aimed at simplifying the tax code, increasing fairness, and reducing the deficit. In some cases, this has led to the elimination or reduction of certain tax exemptions, as seen in the 2017 United States tax reform, which eliminated or capped several itemized deductions and personal exemptions.
Tax reform initiatives often seek to replace various tax exemptions with a simpler and more targeted system of tax credits or deductions. For example, replacing income-based tax exemptions for the elderly or the disabled with tax credits that provide a direct benefit to those in need, regardless of their income, could increase efficiency and equity in the tax system.
However, substantial resistance to these reforms may come from various interest groups, such as homeowners, religious organizations, or the beneficiaries of specific tax exemptions. These groups often argue that eliminating or reducing tax exemptions would result in undue hardship and threaten the financial stability or viability of the institutions they represent.
In conclusion, tax exemption controversies and reforms are a reflection of the inherent trade-offs between efficiency, equity, and simplicity in the tax system. As societies continue to evolve and grapple with a variety of social, economic, and fiscal challenges, the debate over the role and fairness of tax exemptions is likely to remain a prominent feature of the public discourse.
Tax Exemptions FAQs
1. What are tax exemptions, and how do they impact individual income taxes?
Tax exemptions are provisions within tax laws that provide individuals and organizations relief from paying specific taxes. By reducing taxable income, exemptions lower the individual’s or entity’s overall tax liability, thereby lessening their financial burden.
2. What types of tax exemptions are available for individuals?
Typically, tax exemptions fall into two categories: personal exemptions and dependency exemptions. Personal exemptions pertain to taxpayers and their spouses, while dependency exemptions apply to qualifying dependents, such as children or relatives. Some exemptions depend on factors like age, disability, and education expenses.
3. Can businesses and nonprofit organizations benefit from tax exemptions?
Yes, certain privileges, like property tax exemptions and sales tax exemptions, benefit qualifying businesses and nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits, for instance, enjoy exemption from federal income tax under IRC Section 501(c)(3).
4. How does one claim a tax exemption?
To claim tax exemptions, taxpayers must include the necessary details in their federal or state tax returns. Generally, taxpayers need to provide the appropriate schedule or form along with required documentation to substantiate claims.
5. Are tax exemptions subject to change, and how can taxpayers stay updated?
Tax laws and regulations are subject to change, which may affect exemptions. To stay informed, it is vital for taxpayers to regularly review information shared by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and their state’s tax department, or consult a tax professional.
6. What is the difference between tax exemptions and tax deductions?
While tax exemptions remove specific income portions from a taxpayer’s overall taxable income based on their status, tax deductions refer to specific expenses that reduce taxable income. Deductions apply primarily to businesses, though some may also benefit individuals.