Archive for the ‘start-up’ category

9 Steps to Manually Reconcile a Bank Statement

January 27th, 2012

A business must track its funds to have a clear picture of its financial health. Bank statement reconciliations are an tool that business owner’s use in a proper cash management process. This procedure compares the account balance, as reported by the bank, against the account register in the company’s general ledger. This process ensures all cash items clear the company’s bank account in a timely manner. It also prevents the company’s general ledger from becoming clogged with inaccurate or irrelevant information. Cash accounts with significant inaccuracies can mislead business owners into believing the company has better cash flow than it really does.

The process of preparing a bank reconciliation involves making adjustments to the balances in both the bank statement and the company’s records to confirm that the ending balances match and that every item is properly accounted for. It is important to prepare bank reconciliations in a timely and regular basis (monthly, for example), so if questions regarding bank fees or errors arise both the company and the bank can be made aware as soon as possible.

Because of the lag time between deposits made and checks written, and their actual posting to your account, it is rare for the ending balances to match. Reconciliation ensures all transactions are accounted for, and provides a true cash balance.

To preform a proper bank statement reconciliation, follow these nine steps:

1. Comparison

Start the bank reconciliation process with a comparison of the company’s bank statement and general ledger cash account. Check off all items that match. This part of the reconciliation ensures all items recorded in the general ledger have cleared the company’s bank account. Once an item clears the bank account, it usually represents the finality of that particular business transaction.

2. Add Deposits

Once the comparison process is complete, note all items that remain on the company’s general ledger. Add any deposits in transit to the ending balance. Deposits in transit are deposits that you have recorded in your register but have not appeared on the bank statement.

3. Outstanding Checks

Deduct outstanding checks from the ending balance. These checks have been deducted from your check register, but have not yet cleared the bank.

4. Bank Errors

Add or deduct any bank errors to the ending balance. Examples would be incorrect deposit amounts and incorrect debits.

5. Check Register Reconciliation

Deduct bank service charges. Service charges could be account maintenance fees, check overage fees if you wrote more checks than you are allotted for the month, wire transfer charges, returned check fees, etc.

6. Interest Earned

Add interest earned if you have an interest bearing account.

7. Check Register Errors

Add or deduct errors in the check register. These errors could include posting a payment that was not actually a cash transaction, or omitting a payment.

8. Journal Entries

You may need to prepare journal entries as part of this reconciliation process. These journal entries will correct any errors found during the bank statement and general ledger comparison. Owners can also use journal entries to post any bank statement items into the general ledger if necessary. Once all journal entries are posted, you may re-run the general ledger cash account to update the ending balance for all new posted items.

9. Compare Both Statements

Compare the adjusted bank statement balance per your reconciliation to the adjusted cash balance per the general ledger. The balances should be equal. If the two balances do not match review the steps; verify that the bank balance has been adjusted for all deposits in transit and outstanding checks, and that all activity has been properly posted in the company’s general ledger.

Cool Product: Carbonite Business

January 19th, 2012

If you want the ultimate in off-site data protection, look to cloud computing solutions such as Carbonite Business to help you survive and recover from disasters that wipe out your physical systems.

Unlike traditional daily or weekly backups, Carbonite Business continually backs up the files on your PCs to its secure data centers throughout the day. There’s no intervention required by your employees, and you have complete visibility into, and control over, individual backups via the handy My Company Dashboard, where you can see your users, computers, storage in use, backup status and more.

Best of all, the pricing scheme for Carbonite Business can’t be beat. Instead of paying per PC, you pick the plan that fits your storage needs, 250GB for $229 per year or 500GB for $599 (which includes service for one Windows server), and protects as many machines as you need, resulting in one of the lowest per-gigabyte storage prices of any online business backup solution. The home and home office version starts at $59 per year per computer.

Never interrupts your business
With Carbonite, your backup happens automatically, in the background. Users never have to stop working, and after the initial backup, shouldn’t notice any impact on performance. And no one has to choose between backing up and doing their jobs.

No hardware required
Carbonite is 100% software-based backup – there’s no hardware to install or maintain, no wires to connect, no disks or tapes to deal with, no technician needed. You simply install the software and Carbonite takes care of the rest.

Safer than local backups
Your backup is encrypted at all times, and stored on redundant disk arrays that are immeasurably more reliable than internal or external hard drives. (If you have external hard drives you can back them up with Carbonite Business, too.) Our state-of-the-art, guarded data centers protect your business backup from theft, fire, water damage and anything else that can happen at your office.

Smarter than scheduled backups
Carbonite backs up your data continually, updating your backup in the background – eliminating the potentially costly ‘backup gaps’ created by daily or weekly backups.

Restores files fast to minimize downtime
If you lose a file, get it back with a few clicks. If your hard drive crashes, restore all your backed up files to another computer via Carbonite.com – or, for mission-critical recovery, have your backed up files shipped to you on a portable hard drive.

Anytime, anywhere access to backed up files
With Anytime, Anywhere Access, you can open, view and share any file in your backup from any computer connected to the Internet. Or use one of our free mobile apps to access your files from your iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ or BlackBerry® device.

The Importance of Monthly Bank Statement Reconciliation

January 12th, 2012

The proper reconciliation of bank statements is vital for any small business. Even if you don’t have an accountant on staff, this procedure must be done monthly. Whether you use software such as QuickBooks, or you simply keep track of your bank records, you need to double-check that everything adds up.

Catching Errors

Even if you implement strict control measures, the potential exists for human error in . If companies fail to reconcile their bank statements every month, these errors may go undetected and they could be costly. For example, if a teller at the bank calculates a deposit incorrectly, the company may end up short of the funds it needs to continue doing business. Or if checks you have sent out are lost, or simply not yet deposited by the payee, you might see your bank balance and think there is more money in your account available for you to spend then would be wise. And if those lost checks are found and deposited, and those checks that someone has been holding onto for a few weeks are cashed when you do spend that “extra” money, you’ll soon be bouncing checks all over town. The reconciliation process helps provide a method of double-checking to avoid mistakes.

Following Up on Transactions

If a vendor complains about not receiving funds, it could be possible that a check was lost in the mail. When you are reconciling your bank statement every month, you can catch checks that have not cleared, and this will help you track down any potential missing payments. In addition, you can use your reconciliation statement to make sure your other company transactions are going through and have been calculated for the proper amount.

Keeping a Close Eye on Company Performance

When small business owners do not take the time to reconcile their bank statements personally, or at least see an overview of the results, they may be unaware of potential income issues or shortfalls. While delegating can help you manage your company better, you need to be able to see exactly what is going on within your company. Keeping an eye on bank statements can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your company and spot income fluctuations.

Loss Prevention

When bank statements are not monitored and reconciled, the potential for undetected loss is high. Not all employees or firms are honest, and you may not miss money that has been taken for some time. This is how some employees are able to embezzle thousands if not millions of dollars over time. Reconciling your bank statement helps you prevent losses and may indicate a potential problem in your system.

10 Not-So-Simple Tax Deductions & More

December 28th, 2011

The more tax deductions your business can legitimately take, the lower its taxable profit will be. Also, in addition to putting more money into your pocket at the end of the year, the tax code provisions that govern deductions can also yield a personal benefit: a nice car to drive at a small cost, or a combination business trip and vacation. It all depends on paying careful attention to IRS rules on just what is, and isn’t, deductible. And sometimes that’s more complex than you think. Still, don’t overlook these important business tax deductions.

1. Auto Expenses
If you use your car for business, or your business owns one or more vehicles, you can deduct some of the costs of keeping it on the road. Mastering the rules of car expense deductions can be tricky, but well worth your while.

There are two methods of claiming expenses:

• Actual expense method. You keep track of and deduct all of your actual business-related expenses.
• Standard mileage rate method. You deduct a certain amount (the standard mileage rate) for each mile driven, plus all business-related tolls and parking fees. In 2011 the standard mileage rate is 51 cents per business mile driven from January through June, and 55.5 cents per business mile driven from July through December.

As a rule, if you use a newer car primarily for business, the actual expense method usually provides a larger deduction at tax time. If you use the actual expense method, you can also deduct depreciation on the vehicle. To qualify for the standard mileage rate, you must use it the first year you use a car for your business activity. Moreover, you can’t use the standard mileage rate if you have claimed accelerated depreciation deductions in prior years, or have taken a Section 179 deduction for the vehicle. (For more on Section 179, see “New Equipment,” below.)

If your auto is used for both business and pleasure, only the business portion produces a tax deduction. That means you must keep track of how often you use the vehicle for business and add it all up at the end of the year. Certainly, if you own just one car or truck, no IRS auditor will let you get away with claiming that 100% of its use is related to your business.

2. Expenses of Going into Business
Once you’re running a business, expenses such as advertising, utilities, office supplies, and repairs can be deducted as current business expenses, but not before you open your doors for business. The costs of getting a business started are capital expenses, and you can elect to deduct up to $5,000 of business start-up and $5,000 of organizational costs for a business started in 2011; any remainder must be deducted in equal amounts over the next 15 years.

If you expect your business to make a profit immediately, you may be able to work around this rule by delaying paying some bills until after you’re in business, or by doing a small amount of business just to officially start. However, if, like many businesses, you will suffer losses during the first few years of operation, you might be better off taking the deduction over five years, so you’ll have some profits to offset.

3. Bad Debts
If your business has uncollectable invoices from customers or clients, then bad debt may or may not be deductible. It depends on the kind of product your business sells.

• If your business sells goods, you can deduct the cost of goods that you sold but were not paid for.
• If your business provides services, no deduction is allowed for time you devoted to a client or customer who doesn’t pay.

4. Business Entertaining
If you pick up the tab for entertaining present or prospective customers, you may deduct 50% of the cost if it is either:

• directly related to the business and business is discussed at the event,  for example, a catered meeting at your office; or
• associated with the business, and the entertainment takes place immediately before or after a business discussion.

On the receipt or bill, always make a note of the specific business purpose, for example, “Lunch with Doug Boswell  of Solid Growth Accounting Services to discuss the monthly financial reports.”

5. Travel
When you travel for business, you can deduct many expenses, including the cost of plane fare, costs of operating your car, taxis, lodging, meals, shipping business materials, cleaning clothes, telephone calls, faxes, and tips.

It’s OK to combine business and pleasure, as long as business is the primary purpose of the trip. However, if you take your family along, you can deduct only your own expenses.

6. Interest
If you use credit to finance business purchases, the interest and carrying charges are fully tax-deductible. The same is true if you take out a personal loan and use the proceeds for your business. Be sure to keep good records demonstrating that the money was used for your business.

7. New Equipment
Some small businesses can write off the full cost of some assets in the year they buy them, rather than capitalizing them and then deducting their cost over a number of years.

Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code allows you to deduct up to $500,000 of the cost of new equipment or other assets in 2011. This is subject to a phase-out if you place more than $2 million of equipment in service. Some assets don’t qualify for this Section 179 deduction, including real estate, inventory bought for resale, and property bought from a close relative. The annual deduction amount goes down to $125,000 in 2012.

There is also a first-year bonus depreciation deduction in effect for 2010 through 2012. This special deduction allows taxpayers to depreciate an additional 50% or 100% of the adjusted basis of qualified property during the first year the property is placed in service. This deduction can be taken in addition to the Section 179 deduction and offers tremendous tax savings. For the calendar year 2011, the first-year bonus depreciation is 100%. For calendar year 2012, the first-year bonus depreciation amount is 50%.

8. Taxes
Taxes incurred in operating your business are generally deductible. How and when they are deducted depends on the type of tax:

• Sales tax on items you buy for your business’s day-to-day operations is deductible as part of the cost of the items; it’s not deducted separately. However, tax on a big business asset, such as a car, must be added to the car’s cost basis; it isn’t deductible entirely in the year the car was bought.
• Excise and fuel taxes are separately deductible expenses.
• If your business pays employment taxes, the employer’s share is deductible as a business expense. Self-employment tax is paid by individuals, not their businesses, and so isn’t a business expense.
• Federal income tax paid on business income is never deductible. State income tax can be deducted on your federal return as an itemized deduction, not as a business expense.
• Real estate tax on property used for business is deductible, along with any special local assessments for repairs or maintenance. If the assessment is for an improvement — for example, to build a sidewalk — it isn’t immediately deductible; instead, it is deducted over a period of years.

9. Education Expenses
You can deduct education expenses if they are related to your current business, trade, or occupation. The expense must be to maintain or improve skills required in your present employment. The cost of education that qualifies you for a new job isn’t deductible.

10. Advertising and Promotion
The cost of ordinary advertising of your goods or services, such as business cards, yellow page ads, and so on, is deductible as a current expense. Promotional costs that create business goodwill, for example, sponsoring a peewee football team, are also deductible as long as there is a clear connection between the sponsorship and your business. For example, naming the team the “Solid Growth Accounting Dodgers” or listing the business name in the program is evidence of the promotion effort.

Here are some additional routine deductions that many business owners miss. Keep your eye out for them.

• DVDs, CDs, audiotapes and videotapes related to business skills
• bank service charges
• business association dues
• business gifts
• business-related magazines and books
• casual labor and tips
• casualty and theft losses
• coffee and beverage service
• commissions
• consultant fees
• credit bureau fees
• moving expenses
• office supplies
• online computer services related to business
• parking and parking meters
• petty cash funds
• postage
• promotion and publicity
• seminars and trade shows
• taxi and bus fare
• telephone calls away from the business

Note: Just because you didn’t get a receipt doesn’t mean you can’t deduct the expense, so keep track of those small items.

Business Start-up Costs

September 12th, 2011

Understanding what it will cost to start up a new business is a major factor toward the success of every business.  Each business start-up will have unique needs. A retailer might need a storefront and staff to operate it, plus inventory, while a manufacturer might need machine shop equipment and trained staff to operate it, plus raw materials and a warehouse. If you’re starting an online business, you might be doing it at home, may not need an outside facility and will have minimal operating expenses and possibly no staff at all.

It’s best to determine the financing and borrowing needs of a new business by estimating its start-up costs when writing the business plan. Business plan writing software, the US Small Business Administration and other organizations offer start-up cost worksheets to help identify these business expenses. Or with a basic knowledge of spreadsheet software such as Excel and the following set of example cost categories, you can put a custom worksheet together yourself. 

Costs for a start-up business can be divided into these sometimes overlapping categories:

Permits and Licenses
A start-up cost estimate must include funding to cover not only the business license and Fictitious Business Name registration and publication, but also the cost of permits, zoning and possibly a zoning variance. You may also have expenses related to refitting your place of business to satisfy licensing and regulatory requirements. For example, your business may have to conform to fire safety regulations and may incur the cost of fire extinguishers, sprinklers and exit signs.

Professional Fees
Setting up a legal structure for your business (e.g. LLC, corporation, etc.), trademarks, copyrights, patents, drafting partnership and non-disclosure agreements, etc., will require attorney fees. You may also need to engage the services of an architect or engineer, and retain an accountant and/or a tax advisor. Consider that some of these professional service expenses may be ongoing.

Administrative Costs
Administrative costs include anything else you need to have on a daily basis to operate a business including express shipping and postage, and a wide range of office supplies, and other consumables.

Insurance
There is no better protection from the unforeseen than to have the full and proper insurance coverage in place. You will need liability and property insurance to protect yourself and any business assets. Some businesses also require workers’ compensation, health, life, fire, product liability and professional malpractice insurance. Check what you need for the kind of your business.

Depending on your type of business this could be a considerable expense, or maybe not.  If you are starting a typical home-based service business your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance may cover your business equipment, supplies and inventory. But it’s best to be cautious and check your policy coverage with your insurance agent before you open for business. Often a small additional fee, perhaps $50 or so, will purchase a rider for your policy that will cover such equipment as your computer, telephone and printer/copier.

Premises & Business Location
Some costs for a business location are considered one-time business plan start-up costs such as building renovations, down payments on a mortgage, construction costs and landscaping.

Other costs of having premises are monthly expenditures such as the payment of a mortgage or rent, utilities, parking, building and landscape maintenance, and office security. Also consider that you will need to buy office furniture including desks, chairs, filing cabinets, etc.

Technology Expenses
A cost effective and efficient company will leverage technology and must estimate expenses related to computer hardware and software, printers, copiers, telephones (both land lines and cell phones), PDAs, website development, optimization and maintenance, internet access, security measures, and IT consulting and training.

One-time expenditures often include the purchase and installation of computers and telecommunication equipment including networks, phones, and mobile communications gear. Monthly expenses can include equipment leasing or payments and technical support services.

Marketing, Advertising and Sales Expenses
Marketing and promotion are vital to the success of any business. All businesses should have advertising budgets based upon their business models. A marketing plan will help determine the exact costs required for a specific business model.

Advertising should be considered a monthly expense that can include the cost of Internet and print media advertising, postage for mailings, design and printing costs for promotional brochures and stationary, public relations services, event or trade show attendance or sponsorship, trade association or chamber of commerce membership fees, plus related travel and entertainment.

Employee Expenses
Many business start-ups fail to include an estimate of the owner’s salary in their business plan start-up cost estimate. Omitting this important salary can cause undue stress during the first year, when the business may not be making a profit. Business owners should include a twelve month estimate of all employee costs, including salaries, payroll withholding taxes, worker’s compensation insurance, and benefits. Including your own.

Business Product
Businesses that sell a product must consider start-up costs for such items as initial inventory, vendor deposits, raw materials, manufacturing equipment, warehousing costs, product packaging, shipping, shipping insurance, and sales tax.

Businesses that provide a service must consider costs such as travel to client sites, mobile services and printing costs. Business product costs differ based upon the business product and business sales model. Writing a business plan will help to identify the start-up costs.

Operational Expenses
Operational costs should be budgeted out monthly. Estimate costs such as telephone, mobile services, Internet access, electricity and other vital services for a year, since the loss of any of them will directly affect the success of the business. Other operational costs include on-going , attorney and other professional fees, banking fees, credit card usage fees, and possibly transportation expenses.

Factor in the Time to Get Off the Ground
One critical component of getting an accurate start-up cost estimate is to determine the length of time it’s going to take you to open your new business. It will be very different if you’re opening a restaurant versus an eBay business. No matter what your business type, take into account everything you will spend, from the moment you begin the start-up process, through the moment you make your first sale. If you need three months from the time you sign a lease to the time you can put the open-for-business sign on your retail storefront, then calculate how much money you will need for salaries, electricity, rent and so forth, during those three months.

Learn the Specific Costs for Your Type of Business
There’s a wealth of resources available to you on the Internet that you can access to understand the specific costs associated with your particular business. For starters, engage multiple social media platforms, connect with other people in your industry, and post on message boards asking for help from fellow entrepreneurs.

Check out your industry’s trade association(s). There should be active members who are going through or have successfully navigated the start-up process, and they may be happy to share tips with you. You might even get access to sample business plans and checklists for your market niche, but most importantly, you’ll find out which hidden costs to be wary of in your industry.

Take every opportunity you can to network with business owners in your industry, both online and in person. They will have the best understanding of how the costs of a typical business in your industry balance out across the above categories. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to create a reasonable cost estimate for starting a business of your own.

Above all, be realistic when calculating your start-up costs. The first attempt to list out and calculate your costs may not be complete. Continue to research, consider your options, and refine your analysis until you’re satisfied with the final number, and then take the additional step of adding a miscellaneous line item for 10% of your total budget. The fact is, you’ll spend more than you expect to get your start-up business going, and the miscellaneous category will be there to cover the inevitable unexpected costs.