Get Ahead on Year-End Tasks

Year-end is just around the corner, and that means a couple of administrative tasks are necessary to take care of bookkeeping and tax chores. Here are a couple of tips to make year-end go smoother.

Cleaning up

Things will go a lot smoother if you reach out to your vendors and employees and get their help to update your records.

  • Send a notice to all employees, asking them to verify their address so they will get their W-2s without delay.
  • Make sure you have the right information for vendors that you need to produce a 1099 for. Before you pay your vendors more than $600 in one year, ask them for a W-9 so that you have a current address and taxpayer ID number on file.
  • Check to make sure you have any sales tax exemption certificates from vendors that you are not charging sales tax to.

It’s also time to clean up any account balances that need to be reclassified or corrected.

  • Any clearing accounts, such as undeposited funds, should be zero.
  • Bank reconciliations should be caught up and book balances should match the bank or be explained.
  • Inventory should be adjusted to reflect accurate quantities.
  • Loan balances should be adjusted to correctly reflect interest and principal allocations.
  • Depreciation entries should be made.

Maximizing deductions

Here are a just a few ways to maximize deductions:

  • Any bad debts that aren’t expected to be collected can be written off.
  • Any inventory that is not saleable or worth less than you paid for it can be adjusted on your books.
  • For cash basis taxpayers, pay any large bills before year-end if you have excess profits.
  • Pay employee bonuses prior to year-end.

Getting organized

Create a place in your home or office or a special file on your computer to store tax-related documents, such as W-2s, brokerage statements, and tax returns. Convert them to PDF format if they are not already, and upload them to your accountant’s secure client portal as you get them.

With all this great preparation, you’ll find tax season easier than ever and a chore that you can mark off your to-do list early.

The Perfect Chart of Accounts for Your Business

Your “Chart of Accounts” is the list of accounts in your accounting software. The accounts are listed in your reports, and the totals allow you to determine how much you’ve spent, made, own, or owe depending on the type of account.

It’s essential to create a list of accounts that you need in order to make better business decisions. Your chart of accounts needs to be designed intentionally. If it hasn’t been, it’s never too late.

Two Types of Accounts

There are two major types of accounts:

  1. Balance sheet accounts that tell what you own and owe. These are determined by your checking accounts, inventory, and credit cards.
  2. Income statement accounts that tell you about current period operating results. These, in turn, have two major categories, income and expenses. For companies with inventory, expenses are further broken out into cost of goods sold and other expenses.

Three Purposes

A chart of accounts should meet three needs:

  • Make it really fast for you to do your taxes
  • Give you all sorts of “Aha’s”
  • Allow you to spend far more time on revenue analysis than expense analysis because that’s where success lies for small businesses

Taxes

Your accounts should be the same as (or be able to be grouped into) the lines on your tax return. You can find a copy of the tax form you fill out. For example, a sole proprietor will use a Schedule C of the 1040, and a corporation will complete an 1120.

There are a few special needs, such as meals and entertainment which are only partially deductible, that you need to pay special attention to. We can help you with that.

Aha

As small business owners, we work with a gut feel, but when you see what you’ve made or spent in black and white, it takes on a whole new level of meaning. Your income statement and other reports should do that for you. If they don’t you may not have your accounts set up right.

Revenue

Think about how you want to see your revenue:

  • By product line
  • By major supplier
  • By category of solution to the customer
  • By customer type
  • By service type
  • By location (you can also use Class for this)
  • By job
  • By distribution method

We can help you brainstorm based on your industry and type of business.

Actionable Intelligence

If you’ve been putting all your revenue into one revenue account, it will be exciting the first time you see your new Profit and Loss statement.

If you’ve been breaking out your revenue but it hasn’t led to any actionable change in your business, then there may be a better way to break it out.

If you’re happy with the way your revenue is broken out, then think about how you can take it to the next level.  

Once you see your new chart of accounts, you will likely have even more questions. The chart of accounts can be an evolving entity, designed to serve your business needs.

What Is Reasonable Compensation?

For small businesses formed as an S Corporation and with plenty of profits, reasonable compensation is a term you may want to be familiar with.

Many small businesses have organized as an S Corporation form of entity. In many cases, the S Corp election allows a business owner to save money on self-employment taxes, especially if they are operating as a sole proprietor. S Corp profits, or distributions, are not subject to payroll taxes.

If you are a business owner taking a salary and contributing substantially to the operations of the business, you may think that you should just take the distributions and forget the salary. After all, think how much you would save in payroll taxes. But this has already been tried and shot down by the IRS in the courts. And this is where the term reasonable compensation comes in.

The IRS requires that business owners that perform a substantial contribution to the business be paid a salary according to a number of factors. This is called reasonable compensation. You can’t pay yourself below market and take a large amount in distributions.

The IRS has issued a fact sheet that describes the guidelines that can be used to determine reasonable compensation. They include employee training, experience, duties, time spent, history of distributions, bonuses, and many other factors.

There are also reasonable compensation ramifications for C Corporations as well.

If reasonable compensation is an issue or concern for your business, please feel free to reach out and let us know how we can help.

Signs You Might Be Outgrowing Your Accounting System

business-growthIf you’re struggling with your accounting system, it might be a sign that you’re ready for something new. Perhaps your company has grown so much that it’s outgrown its older accounting solution. Here are several indications to look for that justify moving to an accounting system with more features and scalability.

User Permissions

Some companies have a need to limit certain functions to certain users. Most systems come with basic functional limitations, such as restricting Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable functions. But what if you need more granular user permissions such as access to only purchase orders or a certain bank account? Mid-market systems like QuickBooks Enterprise provide those features.

Multiple Companies and Consolidated Financial Statements

Do you have multiple companies that are the “children” of a parent company? You might need consolidated financial statements and the ability to open multiple companies at the same time.

Number of Customers and Vendors    

If your business is growing and the number of customers and vendors you do business with exceeds 14,500, you will have reached a list limit in QuickBooks Premier. Each system has their own list limits, and these limits can get complex quickly, so check with us if you feel you are getting close.

File Size and Performance

There may also be file size limits that you need to watch, especially if you have a high volume of transactions or multiple years of history in one file.

You could also have performance issues. If you have a new PC and your accounting system is still running slowly, we can help you improve your performance by condensing your file or setting preferences differently before you have to switch.

Inventory Features

A mid-market system like QuickBooks Enterprise provides advanced features, such as tracking inventory in multiple locations, using the FIFO method, and managing lots or serial numbers. If you need these features, it may be worth it to switch.

Enhanced Customization

Most mid-market accounting systems provide better customization such as additional custom fields, better reporting, and improved form design.

Number of Simultaneous Users

The final reason to switch to a larger accounting system is if you need more simultaneous users. QuickBooks Pro allows for up to three simultaneous users, QuickBooks Premier handles up to five, and QuickBooks Enterprise makes room for up to 30 simultaneous users. QuickBooks Online allows up to 25 simultaneous users.  Check with us if you are curious about your system’s license limits.

Did any of these reasons resonate with you? If so, let us know so we can discuss your needs. 

Beyond Saving Trees: New Trends in Receipt Management

online-business

Accounting automation has come a long way in the last few years, and the process of handling invoices and receipts is included in those changes. No longer is there a mountain of paperwork to deal with. In this article, we’ll explain some of the changes in this area.

Vendor Invoices

Most invoices are now sent electronically, often through email or from accounting system to accounting system. Some accounting systems allow the invoice document, usually in PDF format, to be attached to the transaction in the accounting system. This feature makes it easy for vendor support questions as well as any audit that may come up.

Some systems are smart enough to “read” the invoice and prepare a check with little or no data entry. Others are able to automate three-way matching – this is when you match a purchase order, packing slip, and invoice together – so that time is saved in the accounts payable function.

Receipts

Today’s systems allow you or your bookkeeper to scan in or take cell phone photos of receipts – whether cash or credit card – and then “read” them and record the transaction. This type of system cuts way down on data entry and allows the accountants to focus on more consultative work rather than administrative work.

Some vendors will email you receipts so all you have to do is use a special email address where your accountant is copied or forward the receipt as you receive it.

The biggest challenge for business owners is getting into the habit of photographing the receipt and sending it to the accountant. The days of shoebox receipts are not completely over, but cloud-savvy business owners are definitely enjoying the alternative options of today’s paperless world.

Approvals

Some systems automate bill approval. This is especially handy for nonprofits or companies with a multi-person approval process. It cuts down on approval time and the time it takes to pay the bill.

New Systems

Here is a short list of new systems that automate a part of the vendor payment or receipt management system. There are a lot more, in addition to your core accounting system, and all of them have different features, platforms, software requirements, integration options, and pricing.

  1. Bill.com
  2. Hubdoc
  3. Receipt Bank
  4. Expensify
  5. SmartVault
  6. Doc.it
  7. Tallie
  8. Concur
  9. LedgerSync
  10. ShoeBoxed
  11. ShareFile
  12. DropBox

If you are interested in finding out more about automating your accounts payable invoices or receipts, please reach out anytime.

What’s Your DSO?

calculator

If you grant credit to customers, then you have a balance in accounts receivable. DSO stands for Days Sales Outstanding, and this helps you measure how fast your receivables are being converted to cash.

Here’s how to calculate it:

DSO = Accounts receivable balance / Annual net credit sales * 365.

DSO is measured in days and it represents how many days it takes to collect the customer invoice balance and convert it to cash.

Whether the DSO measure is “good” or not varies by industry as well as the terms you’ve set for your clients. If you’ve set your invoices to be due in 30 days and your DSO is 45 days or less, that’s pretty good. If you’ve set your invoices to be due in 10 days and your DSO is 60 days, then you might want to consider a more aggressive collection policy to speed up your cash flow.

Here are some tips to reduce DSO:

1. Invoice clarity.

Make sure your invoices are accurate and clear. Make it clear whom to make the check out to, where to mail it, the due date, and the amount due. All of these features should be easy to find on the invoice.

2. Consider discounts.      

A common discount term is 2/10, net 30. This means the customer can take two percent off their invoice if they pay in 10 days; otherwise they owe the whole amount in 30 days. If you have customers from large companies, discounts are often required by policy to be taken and this can speed up your payments from them.

3. Consider electronic payments.

Going paperless with your invoicing as well as your payment process can speed up the entire billing cycle. Customers getting their bills earlier will also pay earlier.

What’s your DSO? If you need help calculating it, give us a call.

Boost Your Accounting Know-How with These Terms

dictionaryOutsmart your accountant and other financial friends with these accounting-related definitions:

Fiscal Year

Most companies report their results on a calendar year, from January 1 through December 31. Some companies use a different year for reporting, and that’s called a fiscal year. For example, Intuit’s fiscal year runs from August 1 to July 31. A nonprofit commonly runs from July 1 to June 30.

The word fiscal alone refers to government or public revenues and expenditures. A fiscal year can also be considered the period where companies report their financial results to the public.

Budget

Most companies sit down once a year and plan what they intend to spend. This set of numbers is a budget. It is prepared in income statement format which includes planned revenue and expenses. It can be done for a year, monthly or both.

A common report that compares budget to actual figures is the Income Statement Comparison to Budget which includes columns for month and year-to-date actual, budget, and variance (the difference).

Forecast

While a budget is a longer term plan, a forecast is an attempt to predict the short-term future. Forecasts can be made for cash flow, predicting your bank account balance, or can be focused on potential profit for a period. A forecast is created by enumerating current and expected short-term cash commitments.  

General Ledger

A general ledger is a fancy word for your accounting books.   It’s also a very specific report that lists each account within the chart of accounts, beginning balances, the activity of each account for a particular period of time, and ending balances. It includes both balance sheet accounts, such as cash, accounts receivable, and accounts payable, and income statement accounts, such as revenue and expenses.

Fixed Asset

A fixed asset is a special type of asset that includes items such as land, vehicles, furniture, buildings, office equipment, plants, and machinery. Fixed assets cannot easily be converted into cash (cash equivalents are termed current assets) and they must last longer than one year. They are physical or tangible (as opposed to intangibles such as patents and trademarks).

Depreciation

Most fixed assets except land depreciate in value over time. For example, when you drive a new car out of the lot, no one will give you what you just paid for it. This reduction in value over time is recognized on accounting books by recording depreciation. Since assets need to be recognized at market value, depreciation is an estimate of this adjustment. Depreciation becomes an expense and reduces the value of the fixed asset. Unlike most other transactions, cash is not affected when recording depreciation.

Accrual

There are two ways to keep books when it comes to the timing of how items are recorded: the cash method and the accrual method. Let’s invoke Popeye the Sailor Man’s friend Wimpy who always says, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Let’s say today is the Friday before this famous Tuesday.

If you are using the cash basis method, you would record the entire transaction on Tuesday, when you get the cold hard cash. If you are using the accrual basis, you would have two entries: one on Friday to record the sale to accounts receivable and one on Tuesday to zero out the receivable and increase cash. It’s the same net, effect; the only difference is in the timing.

Most small businesses that extend credit keep their books on an accrual basis so they can keep track of everything. Most taxes are paid on cash-basis books, requiring adjusting entries at year end that reverse at the beginning of the year.

Balance Sheet

A balance sheet is a very common report of all of the business’s account balances as of a specific date, such as December 31. These accounts include cash, receivables, fixed assets, liabilities, equity and others.

Journal Entry

A journal entry is usually an adjustment that is made to the accounting books. The result is that some accounts increase and others decrease. In theory, every transaction made to a company’s books is a journal entry. When you write a check and it’s cashed, cash goes down and an expense is increased. When you receive a payment, cash goes up and revenue goes up. Each of these transactions is a journal entry.

Do you feel a bit smarter? I’m not sure how exciting this is for cocktail table talk, but hopefully you feel smarter when it comes you’re your business’s accounting function.

Get Finance-Savvy with 10 Accounting Terms

info-bookIt’s good to know some basic accounting terms, and here are ten terms with friendly definitions for your review.

Asset: Essentially, assets are what you own. These include your bank accounts, business equipment, and even the amounts that customers owe you.

Revenue: Revenue is what you make. Another word for it is Sales. You generate revenue in your business when you make a sale to a customer. The amount of the sale is included in revenue.

Expense: An expense is what you spend in your business on items that are not expected to benefit you in the long term. Expenses include credit card fees, office supplies, insurance, rent, payroll expense, and similar items that you need to incur to keep your business running.

COGS: COGS stands for Cost of Goods Sold. It’s a form of expense that directly relates to the product or service being sold. For example, if shoes are being sold, the cost of purchasing those shoes are consider COGS, while something like rent or insurance is simply an expense. COGS is more important in manufacturing, retail, and distribution companies.

Net Income: Another word for net income is profit. It’s calculated by subtracting expenses from revenue. If what’s left over is a positive number, it’s net income and if it’s negative, it’s a net loss. Besides your salary, it’s the amount of money you can either keep or re-invest into your business.

Debit: A debit is a term that tells you whether money is being increased or decreased. The hard part is that it’s opposite depending on the account and the company. Here are some examples:

  • A debit to cash increases it, so that’s good.
  • A debit to a loan you owe decreases it, so that’s good too because you are paying it off.
  • When you talk to a bank teller and they want to debit your account, it means they are taking money away, because your account is a liability to them. So it’s opposite.

Credit: A credit is a term that tells you whether money is being increased or decreased. The hard part is that it’s opposite depending on the account and the company. Here are some examples:

  • A credit to cash decreases it, as in writing a check to someone.
  • A credit to a loan you owe increases it, so you owe more money.
  • When you talk to a bank teller and they want to credit your account, it means they are putting money in, because your account is a liability to them. So it’s opposite.

GAAP: GAAP stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. It refers to the set of standards that must be followed by accountants when creating accounting reports for people like bankers and investors who rely on them.

Liabilities: Liabilities are what you owe. If you have loans taken out for your business or owe vendors money for invoices of purchases they sent you, those are liabilities. Common liabilities include sales tax that you’ve collected but not paid, unpaid vendors’ invoices, credit cards that are not paid off each month, mortgages on buildings, and any bank loans you’ve taken out.

Equity: In mathematical terms, equity is the net of your assets less your liabilities. In more philosophical terms, it’s the net amount you and your fellow business owners have invested in your business adjusted by the years of net income you’ve made less what you’ve taken out of the business.

How many terms did you already know? Do you feel smarter already? Knowing accounting terms will help you understand this aspect of your business a bit better.

Three Costly Accounting Mistakes to Avoid

bookkeepingSmall business owners have a lot on their plates, and time simply does not allow you to become an expert in all the areas required for running a business. Here are a couple of common mistakes that we see all the time. Correcting them will help you be more productive and profitable in your business.

1. Mismanaging receipts

Maintaining receipts are challenging for everyone, but the IRS requires that you have proof of business expenditures. Periodically, we come across people who feel that keeping the credit card statements are enough; unfortunately, they’re not. You’ll want to create a process to keep your receipts all in one place so they don’t get lost.

Receipts printed on thermal paper (think gas station receipts and many more) will fade within a year or two, and the bad news is the IRS could audit several years back if they come calling. Correct this by scanning them in or taking a clear picture of them using your smartphone.

Some accounting systems and/or document management applications allow you to upload the receipt and attach it to the transaction in your accounting system. This is a great solution, and if you’re interested in this, please ask us about it.

2. Ignoring the accounting reports

There are gold nuggets in your accounting reports, but some business owners don’t take the time to review them or are uncertain about how to interpret them. Your accountant can help you understand the reports and find the gold nuggets that can help you take action toward profitability.

Some of the things you can do with your reports include:

  • Identifying your highest selling services or products
  • Projecting cash flow so you’re not caught short at payroll time
  • Getting clear on your top customers or your demographic of top customers
  • Evaluating your marketing or business development spend
  • Pointing out trends compared to prior years, budget, or seasonality effects
  • Checking up on profit margins per product or service to make sure you are priced correctly
  • Managing aging receivables or speeding up collections
  • Measuring employee profitability, if relevant
  • And so much more

Being proactive with your accounting will help you spot opportunities in your business that you can act on, as well as spot and correct problems long before they manifest into trouble.

3. Mixing business and pleasure

In your bank accounts and on your credit cards, mixing business and pleasure is to be avoided when possible. All businesses should have a separate bank account, and all business transactions should go through there. It takes an accountant much longer to correctly book a business deposit that was deposited into a personal account.

Taking out a separate credit card and putting all your business transactions on it will save your bookkeeper a ton of time. The credit card doesn’t even have to be a business credit card. It can just be a personal credit card that’s solely used for business. If you have employees making credit card charges, sometimes a separate card for them helps you control fraud.

The hardest area in which to separate business from pleasure is cash transactions. Be sure your accountant knows about these. The accountant can either set up a petty cash account or a reimbursement process so that you can get credit for cash expenditures that are for the business.

How did you rate on these three mistakes? Avoid these three and your accounting department as well as your business will run a lot smoother.

Your Daily Numbers

ledgerSome numbers need reviewing on a daily basis, and one example of this is cash. When cash is coming in from a number of places, it’s great to have a daily summary of what was collected.

It’s also great to make sure all the collections hit your bank account so you can feel confident that no errors were made along the way. A daily cash reconciliation report will serve both needs very well.

A daily cash report will vary depending on the type of business you have, but it will look like a combination of a bank reconciliation and a sales report wrapped into one.

If you are managing your cash closely from day to day, then this report will help you stay sane. You’ll need two very brief spreadsheets to get started. The first one below is your daily sales from all sources. Your accounting system may be able to generate this.

Today’s Sales  
   
Cash $300.00
Checks $600.00

Total Bank Deposit

$900.00

   

Mastercard Visa

$400.00

American Express

$200.00

Total Credit Card Due

$600.00

   

PayPal

$100.00

If your accounting system is up to date, all you’ll need to do is pull the cash balance and adjust for today’s activity. The following day, you can double check your accuracy and adjust accordingly using the last two rows.

Daily Cash Report

 

Book Cash Balance

$5,000.00

Deposit from Today’s Sales

$900.00

Merchant Deposit

$600.00

Less Checks Written Today

($1,200.00)

 

$5,300.00

Expected Bank Balance Tomorrow

$8,300.00

Actual Bank Balance

$8,300.00

Explain any differences

 

If your accounting system is not updated in real time, you’ll need to start with the bank balance and correct it for uncleared transactions as well as list today’s activity.

Daily Cash Report

 

Bank Balance

$5,000.00

Deposit from Today’s Sales

$900.00

Merchant Deposit

$600.00

Less Checks Written Today

($1,200.00)

 

$5,300.00

   

Checks Still Outstanding

($3,000.00)

Deposit from A/R Paid

$5,000.00

   

Expected Bank Balance Tomorrow

$8,300.00

Using these formats, you can easily extend them to cover the entire week. This way, you’ll know what your cash balance will be from day to day.

If you see the value of this report for your business and would like help creating it, please reach out.