Archive for the ‘accounting’ category

Gross Profit, Profit Margin & Markup, OH MY!

April 27th, 2015

Gross Profit, Margin & Markup

The terms Profit Margin and Markup are often used interchangeably to mean Gross Profit Margin, but they are not the same. A clear understanding and application of these concepts and calculations can provide the information you need to better impact your bottom line.

First of all, a very valuable calculation you’ll want to perform for understanding your business is Gross Profit, and then, the tool that you use to maintain gross profit, called Markup.

The gross profit on a product is:

Sales – Cost of Goods Sold = Gross Profit

To understand gross profit, it is important to know the difference between the expenses we call Cost of Goods Sold and the expenses we call Operational Costs.

Cost of Goods Sold are those expenses that are incurred as a direct result of producing the product. They tend to be variable costs such as:

  • Materials used
  • Labor directly involved in production
  • Sales commissions
  • Packaging
  • Freight
  • Utilities, or power costs, for production equipment and or facilities
  • Depreciation expense on production equipment
  • Machinery

Operational Costs are the more fixed costs such as:

  • Rent
  • Insurance
  • Professional fees
  • Office expenses such as supplies, utilities, a telephone for the office, etc.
  • Salaries and wages of office staff, salespeople, officers and owners
  • Payroll taxes and employee benefits
  • Advertising, promotion and other sales expenses
  • Auto expenses

While the gross profit is a dollar amount, the gross profit margin is expressed as a percentage (Gross Profit as a percent of Sales). It’s very important to track since this allows you to keep an eye on profitability trends. This is critical, because a business can get into financial trouble with an increasing gross profit that coincides with a decreasing gross profit margin.

The gross profit margin is computed as follows:

Gross Profit / Sales = Gross Profit Margin

There are two key ways for you to improve your gross margin. You can either increase your prices, or you can decrease the costs to produce your goods. Or both, if you can.

An increase in prices can cause sales to drop. If sales drop too far, you may not generate enough gross profit to cover operating expenses. Price increases require a very careful reading of inflationary rates, competitive factors, and basic supply and demand for the product you are producing.

The second method of increasing gross profit margin is to lower the variable costs to produce your product. This can be accomplished by decreasing material costs, or making the product more efficiently.

Volume discounts are a good way to reduce material costs. The more material you buy from a supplier, the more likely they are to offer you discounts.

Another way to reduce material costs is to find a less costly supplier. However, you might sacrifice quality if the goods purchased are not made as well.

Whether you are starting a manufacturing, wholesale, retail or service business, you should always be on the lookout for ways to deliver your product or service more efficiently.

And all the while, you also must balance efficiency and quality issues to ensure that they do not get out of balance.

Let’s look at the gross profit of Rapid Printing & Copy Company as an example of the computation of gross profit margin. In Year 1, the sales were $1 million and the gross profit was $250,000, resulting in a gross profit margin of 25 percent ($250,000/$1 million). In Year 2, sales were $1.5 million and the gross profit was $450,000, resulting in a gross profit margin of 30 percent ($450,000/$1.5 million).

It is apparent that Rapid Printing & Copy earned not only more gross profit dollars in Year 2, but also a higher gross profit margin. The company either raised prices, lowered variable material costs from suppliers or found a way to produce its print jobs more efficiently (which usually means fewer labor hours per product produced).

Rapid Printing & Copy did a better job in Year 2 of managing its markup on the products that they print.

Business owners sometimes get confused when relating markup to gross profit margin. They are related in that both computations deal with the same variables. The difference is that gross profit margin is figured as a percentage of the selling price, while markup is figured as a percentage of the seller’s cost.

Markup is computed as follows:

(Selling Price – Cost to Produce) / Cost to Produce = Markup Percentage

Let’s compute the markup for Rapid Printing & Copy Company for Year 1:

($1 million – $750,000) / $750,000 = 33.3%

Now, let’s compute markup for Year 2:

($1.5 million – $1.05 million) / $1.05 million = 42.9%

While computing markup for an entire year for a business is very simple, using this valuable markup tool daily to work up price quotes is more complicated. However, it is even more vital.

5 Ways to Avoid Tax Audits

March 19th, 2015

Tax Audit 1When you’re self-employed filing a Schedule C with your tax return, your chances of being audited are greater than if you were a wage earner.

This is because the IRS catches many such individuals that attempt to either hide income or write off personal expenses as business deductions. When all you are reporting on your tax return is income from a W2, what’s there to audit? Even if you enter the numbers wrong, the IRS will match it up with the copy it got from your employer and send you a correction letter along with the adjustment. So, with scrutiny of the self-employed on the rise, here are 5 things you can do to reduce the chances of an audit:

1. Use professional software such as QuickBooks

Track the income and expenses of your business with accounting software. Your credibility increases in the eyes of an IRS agent if your tax return is based on professionally-prepared financial statements, especially if maintained by an outside firm.

2. Document sources of all income

If you are audited, the first thing the IRS agent will do is add up all of the deposits from your personal and business bank accounts. If more money went into the bank than was declared on your tax return, the agent will want to know where the money came from and whether or not the income is taxable. If you use QuickBooks for your personal and business books, you will automatically tie out this income, but you still need proof. If the income you record is not taxable (e.g. gifts, inheritances, loans, transfers from personal funds) keep a copy of the check or document that accompanies the income to prove the source is not taxable.

3. Let a professional prepare your income tax return

Self-prepared returns are more likely to be audited because the IRS thinks a nonprofessional has limited knowledge. Tax law is complex. And if you are self-employed, no matter how small your business, your tax return is now a complex creature.

4. Rethink your legal form

Corporations, LLCs, and partnerships are less likely to be audited, but that should not be the sole reason to incorporate. Discuss this option with a tax professional and your attorney before making any changes.

5. Document the Red Flags

You are allowed to deduct all ordinary and necessary business expenses which means thinking in terms of “Would I make this purchase if I didn’t have this business?” If the answer is no, than you more than likely have a deductible business expense. But it’s important to know the rules and to have proper documentation to substantiate the deduction.

Some expenses receive considerably more scrutiny than others:

Automobile expenses

Taxpayers are required to keep a mileage log if they want to take these kinds of deductions, which can be a lot of work. The IRS loves to investigate these because very few business owners will bother with this. Fortunately there are other ways to substantiate the deduction to the satisfaction of the auditor.

  • If you use an appointment book or calendar, save it along with your copy of the tax return. A mileage log can be reconstructed from those pages.
  • Save vehicle repair receipts as the odometer reading is recorded on them and total mileage for the year can be extrapolated if there is more than one receipt.
  • Record your beginning and ending odometer reading in your appointment book on Jan. 1 and again on Dec. 31.
Travel, meals and entertainment expenses

These are also very common when it comes to tax audit scrutiny. Go to www.irs.gov and read Publication 463 to determine what you can and can’t deduct.

  • Travel, especially to vacation destinations like Las Vegas or Hawaii should be documented with more than purchase receipts to prove the business intent. Save anything that can substantiate your claim that you were traveling primarily for business; such as flyers advertising the trade show, or the continuing education seminar, or letters from prospective clients at that location in your tax file.
  • Write the name of the person entertained and a brief note describing the business purpose on receipts for meals and entertainment.
Home office expenses

These are another red flag for the IRS to take a closer look at your expenses.

  • Take photographs of the house and the office area. The photos will serve two purposes: they will show the proportion of the business area compared to the personal living area to substantiate the amount of space claimed as well prove that there is in fact a business area.
  • Know the rules: The home office must be your principle place of business and must be used exclusively and on a regular basis for business purposes.

 

Sole Proprietor Start-Up Tips

February 26th, 2015

Sole Proprietor

When starting a new business, many aspiring entrepreneurs will launch it as a side venture to their current career employment, a.k.a. their day job. So there may not be a big rush to create a complex and expensive legal entity such as a Corporation. In many situations a simple sole proprietorship is the most appropriate way to go.

 

KISS

Keep it simple starting out. The simplest form of entity for running your new business is a sole proprietorship. This form of ownership requires no special communication or filings to the Internal Revenue Service until you start paying employees and/or taxes.

Sole Proprietor

As a sole proprietor you are the owner of a business that might only need a business license/permit if your county or city requires it. If you are the owner of a business that sells items that require sales tax, you will need a reseller permit, and are liable to remit all state and/or city taxes on retail, and maybe wholesale, sales your business collects. Service businesses and most cross state sales are exempt from state sales tax.

Liability Insurance

If you are concerned about personal liability, then the simplest thing to do is to buy a personal liability umbrella policy. Additionally, the best way to avoid liability is to learn your trade well and keep accurate accounting records.

No Company Taxes, Just Yours

Profit from a sole proprietorship is reported on your personal tax return. The IRS won’t even know your company exists until after you file your first personal income tax return. This will include a Schedule C which reports all of the revenue and expenses your business has incurred. In most states, including California, certain state minimum taxes are not require of sole proprietorships. You will, however, have to pay any sales tax you have collected from your customers. And since sole proprietorship losses will offset income from you day job, you might even receive a tax refund. So concentrate on building your business, not communicating with the IRS

Just a Personal Bank Account Will Do, But Don’t

Although advisable as a sound business practice, you are not required to have a separate bank account which is a necessary compliance for a LLC or Corporation. As you get your business set up you could pay your startup costs out of your personal bank account, but once you’re in business and making sales, file a Fictitious Business Name Statement and use the paperwork to open a business bank account. Keep complete and accurate records so you can be sure to get the best possible tax advantage from those early-stage costs, and not get them mixed up with your personal expenses.

Simple to Start, Simple to End

Over 85% of small businesses fail or change ownership within the first five years. Plan your business to thrive but if it fails as a sole proprietorship, you simply stop doing business. No communication or special forms with the IRS, no additional taxes to get your investment returned and no high accounting fees to close out your company. Just mark the Schedule C in your next personal tax return as “final”.

Getting Paid

In a sole proprietorship you just take the money out as a draw. No payroll taxes or quarterly forms needed. Many startups lose money for the first year, and maybe longer, so keep your day job to pay your living expenses.

Evolving Beyond the Sole Proprietorship

As your business becomes profitable talk with a CPA about another entity type that might save you taxes. Just a simple bookkeeping entry transfers all of the business assets from the sole proprietorship into the new entity without any tax penalties.

Understanding Debits and Credits

May 10th, 2014

Bean Counting-Debits & CreditsFor many business owners the debit/credit system is one of the great mysteries of accounting. And a good reason to let someone else handle it. Which accounts are debits? Which are credits? Why are debits on the left and credits on the right? Why not just say plus and minus? Why use such an system at all?

What are debits and credits?

A set of accounting books has two separate lists of numbers, one list called the “debits,” the other called the “credits.” It is a cardinal rule that total debits must equal total credits in every single transaction and in the set of accounting books as a whole.

You could define “debits” and “credits” as the two separate classes of numbers in your books.

Debit accounts and credit accounts

There are five basic elements of the financial statements:

  1. Assets (such as Cash, Inventory, Accounts Receivable, and Fixed Assets)
  2. Liabilities (such as Accounts Payable and Mortgage Payable)
  3. Owners’ Equity (for a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, or Corporation)
  4. Revenues (such as Sales)
  5. Expenses (such as Cost of Goods Sold, Salary Expense, or Tax Expense)

Of these, Assets and Expenses are considered to be debit accounts, while Liabilities, Owners’ Equity, and Revenues are considered to be credit accounts. Every student of accounting should know these classifications cold.

How to remember which accounts are debits and which are credits

Having the debit accounts be Assets and Expenses, while the credit accounts are Liabilities, Owners’ Equity, and Revenues, doesn’t seem to make much sense. After all, most people think of Assets and Expenses as opposites. Likewise, Liabilities, Owners’ Equity, and Revenues don’t seem to have much in common.

What these accounts have in common is their relationship with cash. Credit accounts; Liabilities, Owners’ Equity, and Revenues are sources of cash. This is where the money comes from. You can borrow it, you can raise it from investors, or you can earn it from customers. Debit accounts – Assets and Expenses – are things you spend money on. Use your cash to buy Assets, or spend it on Expenses.

Journal entries

In accounting, transactions are represented as journal entries. Each journal entry consists of equal values of debits and credits. Debiting a debit account increases it. Crediting a debit account decreases it. On the other hand, crediting a credit account increases it. Crediting a debit account decreases it.

Suppose you sell a service for cash. You would debit the account Cash (an Asset), thus increasing it. You would credit the Account Revenues (a Revenue account), thus increasing. Hence, both your cash and your revenues will be increased.

Debits and Credits aren’t good or bad

Some people think credits are “good,” while debits are “bad.” Indeed, revenues could be considered to be good because they increase net income, while expenses could be bad because they decrease net income. However, on the balance sheet, one might say that liabilities (debts) are evil even though they are credit accounts, while assets are good even though they are debit accounts. This approach to understanding debits and credits doesn’t work.

Debits and credits form the building blocks of accounting. Assets and Expenses are debit accounts. Liabilities, Owners’ Equity, and Revenues are credit accounts. Journal entries have equal values of debits and credits affecting the accounts. In a company’s books as a whole, all debits must equal all credits.

 

6 Common Bookkeeping Errors

July 11th, 2011

 

Since keeping a complete, accurate and up to date set of books on a company’s financial activity is the core of every business, it is important to recognize the most common mistakes made by small businesses. From cash flow problems to tax compliance issues, small errors can have big consequences. Below is a list of six of the most common problems I see which can and should be avoided.

1. Thinking that no Accounting System is Necessary
One big mistake made early on is especially common with start-ups. The neophyte business owner sometimes thinks they can make do without a real system. Instead of using software, like QuickBooks, the business owner just collects receipts in a box and/or keeps a check register by hand. Or maybe the owner creates the illusion of an system by using Excel to make lists of expenses and payments that add up the numbers. Unfortunately, before having your taxes done, the tax preparer needs to cobble together some sort of makeshift system that will allow your tax return to be prepared, but it almost surely won’t capture all your deductions. And the information that this crude system provides will be too late to help you make the “smart” decisions to run your business in the best possible manner.

2. Doing Your Own Books
The DIY approach is one of the biggest pitfalls I see from business owners and managers. QuickBooks and other software programs essentially promise proficiency with just a few simple clicks. However, unless you are familiar with general principles, any software can be confusing and frustrating. You often end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out where you went wrong. Having a professional bookkeeper with the knowledge and skills necessary to complete your books quickly and accurately, and then analyze your financials, is crucial to small business success.

3. Slow Entry of Accounting Data
Most business owners intend to keep their system up to date, but often they don’t. Taking too long to enter the data into your system creates a problem such that any useful insights that come from your financial numbers will come too late to be really useful. Whoever is doing your books should keep up to date on the data entry. Within a few days of transactions occurring, the system should reflect the activity

4. Inconsistent Reconciliation of the Books with the Bank Statements
One of the key elements of good bookkeeping is to consistently reconcile the books with the bank statements (and your business credit card and other statements too). Many businesses either fail to or improperly reconcile on a regular basis. A major benefit of reconciling the bank statement is ensuring that the cash on a company’s books equals the amount of cash shown by the bank.

Errors will be made in using any system. But the nature of a double-entry bookkeeping system means that it’s usually pretty easy to catch errors as long as you reconcile the bank accounts at the end of each month when the statements arrive. Furthermore, if you hold other valuable assets like inventory or investments, you should periodically compare what the system shows to an actual physical inventory count, or to the statements you receive from external sources. Reconciling your books to your various statements is a kind of reality check that cleans up all sorts of easy-to-miss errors. This is important for all decisions made by the company and it is one of the best reasons for outsourcing your bookkeeping.

5. Incorrectly Tracking Expenses
In order to get the most accurate picture of your business, you need to properly track every business expense. A major issue with small businesses is forgetting to record reimbursable expenses. Often small business owners or managers make business purchases with a personal credit card. These purchases can get lost in the shuffle and consequentially not be submitted for reimbursement. Additionally, the owner may mislabel personal expenses as business deductions. Co-mingling personal and business assets and liabilities makes financial records and books pretty much useless for tax preparation and for use in managing the business.

6. Not Being in Close Contact with Your Bookkeeper
Bookkeepers are only as valuable as the information you give them. Unless you keep them current on all of your financial decisions and transactions, the accuracy of your books will suffer. It is the job of a professional bookkeeper to be able adapt to a surprise or an unexpected inflow of information.