Small Business Owners: Accounting Is for Profit Planning, Not Just Tax Preparation

One might be led to believe that profit is the main objective in a business but in reality it is the cash flowing in and out of a business which keeps the doors open. The concept of profit is somewhat narrow and only looks at expenses and income at a certain point in time. Cash flow, on the other hand, is more dynamic in the sense that it is concerned with the movement of money in and out of a business. It is concerned with the time at which the movement of the money takes place. Profits do not necessarily coincide with their associated cash inflows and outflows. The net result is that cash receipts often lag cash payments and while profits may be reported, the business may experience a short-term cash shortage. For this reason, it is essential to forecast cash flows as well as project likely profits. In these terms, it is important to know how to convert your accrual profit to your cash flow profit. You need to be able to maintain enough cash on hand to run the business, but not so much as to forfeit possible earnings from other uses.

Why accounting is needed

Help you to operate better as a business owner

  1. Make timely decisions

    • Know when to hire a team of employees
    • Know how to price your products
    • Know how to label your expense items
    • Helps you to determine whether to expand or not
    • Helps with operations projected costs
  2. Stop Fraud and Theft

    • Control the biggest problem is internal theft
    • Reconcile your books and inventory control of equipment
  3. Raising Capital (help you to explain financials to stakeholders)

    • Loans
    • Investors

What are the Best Practices in Accounting for Small Businesses to address your common ‘pain points’?

  1. Hire or consult with CPA or accountant

    1. What is the best way and how often to contact
    2. What experience do you have in my industry?
    3. Identify what is my break-even point?
    4. Can the accountant assess the overall value of my business
    5. Can you help me grow my business with profit planning techniques
    6. How can you help me to prepare for tax season
    7. What are some special considerations for my particular industry?

To succeed, your company must be profitable. All your business objectives boil down to this one simple fact. But turning a profit is easier said than done. In order to boost your bottom line, you need to know what’s going on financially at all times. You also need to be committed to tracking and understanding your KPIs.

What are the common Profitability Metrics to Track in Business — key performance indicators (KPI)

Whether you decide to hire an expert or do it yourself, there are some metrics that you should absolutely need to keep tabs on at all times:

  • Outstanding Accounts Payable: Outstanding accounts payable (A/P) shows the balance of cash you currently owe to your suppliers.
  • Average Cash Burn: Average cash burn is the rate at which your business’ cash balance is going down on average each month over a specified time period. A negative burn is a good sign because it indicates your business is generating cash and growing its cash reserves.
  • Cash Runaway: If your business is operating at a loss, cash runway helps you estimate how many months you can continue before your business exhausts its cash reserves. Similar to your cash burn, a negative runway is a good sign that your business is growing its cash reserves.
  • Gross Margin: Gross margin is a percentage that demonstrates the total revenue of your business after subtracting the costs associated with creating and selling your business’ products. It is a helpful metric to identify how your revenue compares to your costs, allowing you to make changes accordingly.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost: By knowing how much you spend on average to acquire a new customer, you can tell exactly how many customers you need to generate a profit.
  • Customer Lifetime Value: You need to know your LTV so that you can predict your future revenues and estimate the total number of customers you need to grow your profits.
  • Break-Even Point:How much do I need to generate in sales for my company to make a profit?Knowing this number will show you what you need to do to turn a profit (e.g., acquire more customers, increase prices, or lower operating expenses).
  • Net Profit: This is the single most important number you need to know for your business to be a financial success. If you aren’t making a profit, your company isn’t going to survive for long.
  • Total revenues comparison with last year/last month. By tracking and comparing your total revenues over time, you’ll be able to make sound business decisions and set better financial goals.
  • Average revenue per employee. It’s important to know this number so that you can set realistic productivity goals and recognize ways to streamline your business operations.

The following checklist lays out a recommended timeline to take care of the accounting functions that will keep you attuned to the operations of your business and streamline your tax preparation. The accuracy and timeliness of the numbers entered will affect the key performance indicators that drive business decisions that need to be made, on a daily, monthly and annual basis towards profits.

Daily Accounting Tasks

  1. Review your daily Cash flow position so you don’t ‘grow broke’.

Since cash is the fuel for your business, you never want to be running near empty. Start your day by checking how much cash you have on hand.

Weekly Accounting Tasks

2. Record Transactions

Record each transaction (billing customers, receiving cash from customers, paying vendors, etc.) in the proper account daily or weekly, depending on volume. Although recording transactions manually or in Excel sheets is acceptable, it is probably easier to use accounting software like QuickBooks. The benefits and control far outweigh the cost.

3. Document and File Receipts

Keep copies of all invoices sent, all cash receipts (cash, check and credit card deposits) and all cash payments (cash, check, credit card statements, etc.).

Start a vendors file, sorted alphabetically, (Sears under “S”, CVS under “C,”etc.) for easy access. Create a payroll file sorted by payroll date and a bank statement file sorted by month. A common habit is to toss all paper receipts into a box and try to decipher them at tax time, but unless you have a small volume of transactions, it’s better to have separate files for assorted receipts kept organized as they come in. Many accounting software systems let you scan paper receipts and avoid physical files altogether

4. Review Unpaid Bills from Vendors

Every business should have an “unpaid vendors” folder. Keep a record of each of your vendors that includes billing dates, amounts due and payment due date. If vendors offer discounts for early payment, you may want to take advantage of that if you have the cash available.

5. Pay Vendors, Sign Checks

Track your accounts payable and have funds earmarked to pay your suppliers on time to avoid any late fees and maintain favorable relationships with them. If you are able to extend payment dates to net 60 or net 90, the better. Whether you make payments online or drop a check in the mail, keep copies of invoices sent and received using accounting software.

6. Prepare and Send Invoices

Be sure to include payment terms. Most invoices are due within 30 days, noted as “Net 30” at the bottom of your invoice. Without a due date, you will have more trouble forecasting revenue for the month. To make sure you get paid on time, always use an invoice form that contains the right details such as payment terms, itemized charges, and your payment address.

7. Review Projected Cash Flow

Managing your cash flow is critical, especially in the first year of your business. Forecasting how much cash you will need in the coming weeks/months will help you reserve enough money to pay bills, including your employees and suppliers. Plus, you can make more informed business decisions about how to spend it.

All you need is a simple statement showing your current cash position, expected cash receipts during the next week/month and expected cash payments during the next week/month.

8. Executive Dashboard (weekly review)

This dashboard gives you a ‘snapshot’ of your operations on a weekly basis.

It consist of Cash on Hand, Cash burn rate, Account Receivables, Accounts Payable, Items sold, Inventory on Hand, inventory turns, outstanding issues in the business, and gross profit margin, new sales wins, customer losses, customer service performance, on time delivery rate and product quality performance.

Monthly Accounting Tasks

9. Balance Your Business Checkbook

Just as you reconcile your personal checking account, you need to know that your cash business transaction entries are accurate each month and that you are working with the correct cash position. Reconciling your cash makes it easier to discover and correct any errors or omissions-by you or by the bank-in time to correct them.

10. Review Past-Due (“Aged”) Receivables

Be sure to include an “aging” column to separate “open invoices” with the number of days a bill is past due. This gives you a quick view of outstanding customer payments. The beginning of the month is a good time to send out overdue reminder statements to customers, clients and anyone else who owes you money.

At the end of your fiscal year, you will be looking at this account again to determine what receivables you will need to send to collections or write off for a deduction

11. Analyze Inventory Status

If you have inventory, set aside time to reorder products that sell quickly and identify others that are moving slowly and may have to be marked down or, ultimately, written off. By checking regularly (and comparing to prior months’ numbers), it’s easier to make adjustments so you are neither short nor overloaded.

12. Process or Review Payroll and Approve Tax Payments

While you have an established schedule to pay your employees (usually semi-monthly), you need to meet payroll tax requirements based on federal, state and local laws at different times, so be sure to withhold, report and deposit the applicable income tax, social security, Medicare and disability taxes to the appropriate agencies on the required dates.

Review the payroll summary before payments are disbursed to avoid having to make corrections during the next payroll period. A payroll service provider can do all this to save you time and ensure accuracy at a reasonable cost.

13. Review Actual Profit and Loss vs. Budget and vs. Prior Years

Each month, take the time to review your budgeted expenses and compare them to what you have actually spent. Are you spending above or below budget? Discuss the variances and take action as needed

Your profit and loss statement (also known as an income statement), both for the current month and year to date, tells you how much you earned and how much you spent. Measure it against your budget every month (or quarter). Comparing your actual numbers to your planned numbers highlights where you may be spending too much or not enough, so that you can make changes.

If you have not prepared a budget, compare your current year-to-date P&L with the same prior-period year-to-date P&L to identify variances and make adjustments.

14. Review Month-End Balance Sheet vs. Prior Period

By comparing your balance sheet at one date-June 30, 2015, for example-to a balance sheet from an earlier date (December 31, 2014), you get a picture of how you are managing assets and liabilities. The key is to look for what is significantly up and/or down and understand why. For example, if your accounts receivable are up, is it due to increased recent sales or because of slower payments from customers?

Quarterly Accounting Tasks

15. Prepare/Review Revised Annual P&L Estimate

It’s time to evaluate how much money you are actually making, whether your net assets are going up or down, the difference between revenues and expenses, what caused those changes, how you are spending profits, as well as identifying trouble spots, and making adjustments to improve sales and margins.

16. Review Quarterly Payroll Reports and Make Payments

You have been reviewing your semi-monthly payroll reports. However, the IRS and most states require quarterly payroll reports and any remaining quarterly payments. Again, it’s best if your payroll service provider completes these reports and files them. Your job is to review to make sure they appear reasonable.

17. Review Sales Tax and Make Quarterly Payments

If your company operates in a state that requires sales tax, make sure you comply to avoid serious penalties. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can help you determine your state tax obligations.

18. Compute Estimated Income Tax and Make Payment

The IRS and states that have income taxes require you to pay estimated income taxes. Review your year-to-date P&L to see if you owe any estimated taxes for that quarter. Your tax accountant can assist if necessary.

Annual Accounting Tasks

19. Review Past-Due Receivables

Now it’s time to check significant past due receivables and decide whether you think customers will eventually pay, whether to send past due bills to a collection agency or whether to write them off for a deduction.

20. Review Your Inventory

Review your current inventory to determine the value of items not sold. Any write-down of inventory translates to a deduction on your year-end taxes. If you do not write down unsellable inventory, you are overstating your inventory balance and paying additional taxes that you don’t owe.

21. Fill out IRS Forms W-2 and 1099-MISC

The IRS has a January 31 deadline that requires you to report the annual earnings of your full-time employees (W-2s) and most independent contractors (1099s). This deadline includes mailing copies of the tax forms to the people who worked for you. Note: A 1099 form is not required for any contractors who earned less than $600. Consider saving time and avoiding errors with an e-filing service.

22. Review full-year financial reports for tax reporting

  • Get organized

    • Collect and store important documents (use apps and calendars for help)

      • Create email folders to store bank statement and receipts
      • Store contracts and agreements
      • Track miles and vehicle expenses
      • Store all required documents for your business type.

    • Tax Preparation
      • Tax preparation is a historical view and not a profit planning event
      • Capture all relevant events
      • Identify all deduction categories
      • Capture all meals

        • Meetings —-whatever was discussed/calendar

          • Try not to go over industry average industry cost for meals.

At tax time, carefully review your company’s full-year financial reports before giving them to your accountant. Before you sign your return, be sure to review it for accuracy based on your full-year financial reports. Remember if IRS audits due to underpayment, they will deal with you not your accountant for any additional taxes, penalty and interest.

If you don’t have the bandwidth to do all this yourself, a great strategy is to partner with a monthly accounting service. Outsourcing your accounting to an expert will simplify your life and give you more time to focus on running your business operations.

A monthly accountant will provide you with a profit and loss sheet, balance statement, and accurate account reconciliation every month, ensuring that you have the financial information you need to make the best choices for your company.

Simple Accounting For The Small Business – Bookkeeping Using A Simple Spreadsheet Template

Starting a small business out of your home, offering products or services like business consulting, photography, selling on the web or a MLM? You are now faced with tracking all your expenses and revenues for your business and you certainly don’t have the money yet to engage a bookkeeper or accountant. If your business is a sole proprietorship, whether it be a Canadian Proprietorship or a US-based Proprietorship, you do not require an accountant to submit your company financials (books) to the IRS (USA) or Revenue Canada). Your business revenue and losses are reported as part of your annual personal income tax. For this small business start-up, you won’t need to buy fancy accounting software, like Quick Books or AccPac to track your business.

Only as part of incorporating Bizfare Enterprise Inc in 2005 was it a requirement to engage an accountant. My accountant did insist on using Quick Books software for my business accounting. Up until then using a simple spreadsheet template served my business accounting needs for over ten years. This simple spreadsheet accounting stood the test of multiple audits by Revenue Canada (CRA and Revenue Canada Goods and Services Tax. Both the hardcopy columnar pad and an electronic spreadsheet version of my financial books were accepted by Revenue Canada. (BTW the audits disclosed more ways for me to claim back additional taxes for the previous three years! Now that’s my type of audit!)

In your new start-up business venture, you likely will generate somewhere between 10 to 30 accounting transactions per month. These transactions would be items like Expense, Revenue (sales), Liability (Loan) type transactions and Sales Tax (Federal + State/Provincial) Collection/Deductions. These transactions are further broken down into various Business Accounts. All the Accounts you set up for your business is called a Chart of Accounts. Recording your business financial transactions (Journal Entries) can be executed with pen and ink on an accounting columnar pad or electronically with your computer using a spreadsheet program (MS Excel, Open Office, Star Office).

Whether you employ electronic or hardcopy media, you need to develop a simple Journal template to create your Business Synoptic Journal. This Synoptic Journal format has the advantage of allowing you a complete view of all your individual journal entry transactions against all your various Business Accounts. Creating this Synoptic Journal is easier to do than you think and requires no prior accounting or bookkeeping knowledge.

TIP #1: You could further reduce the accounting line items (Journal Entries) by consolidating like items such as ‘all the Sales for the month’ and ‘all parking receipts for the month’ into one totaled line item for the month.

Where do you start to identify the various Business Accounts required for your Synoptic Journal?

If you currently work for a company or government, secure of one of their employee expense forms. Look at each of the areas identified as expenses – meals, mileage, hotel accommodations, taxi, car rental, telephone & cell phone, air fare, office supplies, etc. This is an excellent place to identify the various Business Expense Accounts you need to set up for your business accounting books. To complete your business Chart of Accounts, include a Business Bank Account, Sales, COGS (Cost of Goods Sold), Sales Tax Collection, Marketing Expense and others as required. Each of these Accounts will be a listed as a title across the top of each column of your Synoptic Journal. Each row (line item) will be the individual journal transactions entered by you. The journal transactions are grouped and summarized for each business month; usually, January through December.

So your Synoptic Journal would look something like this Sample Synoptic Journal at http://picasaweb.google.com/carl.chesal/BookkeepingTemplate.

The column headings might be in this order (from left to right):

DATE | DESCRIPTION | BANK DEPOSITS | BANK WITHDRAWALS | SALES REVENUE | COGS | SALES TAX COLLECTED & REMITTED | OFFICE SUPPLIES EXPENSE | EXPENSE #2 | EXPENSE #3 | ETC

TIP #2: Unless your business is Incorporated or an LLC, you don’t need to go through the expense of opening a business account with your bank. Usually Business accounts charge a higher monthly fee, charge for printing checks (cheques) and don’t offer any interest on your monthly account balance. Instead, open a separate personal bank account (maybe savings). This will show the ‘taxman’ that you are keeping the business separate from your personal banking. Remember you are a sole proprietor and all your business income (and losses) are to be applied directly to your personal income tax submission ( a s per IRS and CRA).

To save you time and make is very simple, I have already created a simple spreadsheet Synoptic Journal template that performs all the calculations for each month and rolls up the 12 business months so it can easily be included in your annual personal income tax preparation. This Synoptic Journal template has Debit/Credit checks and balances, tracks sales taxes, mileage and totals each account for your entire fiscal year. If you want this FREE Bookkeeping template, you can get it at Communicate Innovate. With a few key strokes, which will help identify yourself, I will gladly send you this FREE Synoptic Journal Template and also any future Small Business Tips.

TIP #3: One Rule of Accounting is that every time you record a journal entry (line item which applies the transaction against the appropriate business accounts) the Debits and Credits MUST REMAIN EQUAL at ALL Times. This Debit Equals Credit calculator is built into this FREE Bookkeeping Template. When you have completed entering a line item (journal transaction), check to ensure that the amount the Debit cell equals the amount in the Credit cell. If they are not equal, you have not entered the amounts properly in your journal transaction. Correct the problem before entering your next journal entry.

You are now equipped to capture your business financial books with some simple accounting software. Happy bookkeeping! And Happy Selling!

How Accounting Services Can Help a Small Business

Accounting services aren’t just for multi-million dollar corporations. From startups to established family businesses, using an accountant to keep track of income, expenses and taxes can help any company reach its potential. Here are five reasons for any business to consider outsourcing their bookkeeping to a premier accounting provider.

1. Free Up Employees

A company may not have enough paperwork to justify a full-time accounting position. However, when non-accountant employees have to split their time between balancing the books and performing their other duties, they are unable to be as effective as employees who only have to concentrate on one job. By hiring a financial management firm to take care of their accounts, the company allows employees to do the jobs they were hired for.

2. Ensure Accuracy

Keeping up with accounts payable, accounts receivable, tax documents and other financial information can be complicated. Good accounting services employ Certified Professional Accountants, or CPAs, who are licensed and highly trained. By employing a numbers expert, a company is helping to ensure the accuracy of their books. This can help avoid costly mistakes that may lead to litigation or even the closure of the business.

3. Stay Up-To-Date

Tax laws and local regulations change frequently, and it can be hard to keep track of all the updates. Also, if a business is growing quickly, it can be difficult to keep track of the different laws that may apply at different stages of growth. A company can help ensure they stay in compliance by employing a dedicated firm whose sole responsibility is understanding these regulations. The accountant can make recommendations to the business owner about any changes that need to be made or upcoming financial legislation that may be relevant.

4. Limit Liability

Many accounting services provide some guarantee for their work within the initial contract. This means that if discrepancies occur, the service provider will be liable for any mistakes that are found. However, financial disputes can tie up working capital for long periods of time, so it’s still important to do due diligence and choose a firm with a good reputation and solid experience.

5. Plan Ahead

Financial experts will understand all sides of a company’s financial picture, including upcoming budgets. Expert financial analysis can help create a more balanced budget, making it easier to plan future expansions or, if necessary, cutbacks. With proper forecasting, a business will be more likely to have appropriate inventory on hand, have enough funds for payroll, and pay enough quarterly taxes, to name a few examples.

With these tips, a business owner can see why it’s important to outsource their bookkeeping to a professional service provider.