Posts Tagged ‘bookkeeping’

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.

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.

8 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Your Small Business

July 29th, 2011

 

Cutting costs can be a great way to increase profitability, or to afford the assets essential for growing your business. The problem is, when you’re running a small business things are usually happening so quickly that you can’t take the time to analyze your spending and determine if you are really acting as wisely as you think. However, it’s more likely that a small business will experience a noticeable increase in profit due to a series of small cost-cutting strategies rather than by the acquisition of a new client.

Cost cutting strategies don’t have to be complicated; they just require that you pay attention to some of the more mundane aspects of your business.

1. Make a Budget and Stick to It
Budgeting is an inseparable component of reducing business expenses. When you don’t know exactly where the money is coming from and going to each month, you cannot make smart and effective financial decisions. A proper budget for your business is a powerful tool to reduce business costs.

2. Make Better Use of Technology
Technology can turn out to be a real money saver and can advance your business in many ways. Technologies like teleconferencing services, online payment services, open-source software and remote desktop applications make a great contribution in reducing small business costs.

For example, consider remote applications such as using the fully compatible Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office. It’s a small move that will dramatically improve efficiency. You can access Docs from anywhere and from any device. Sharing documents is much easier, so collaboration becomes even more efficient. Depending on how many employees you have, this can cut thousands of dollars or more out of your annual software expenses.

3. Shipping & Delivery Services
Shop for the best deal on your shipping and delivery services. As the amount of items you dispatch increases, ask for rate reductions from your shipping company. If they won’t reduce your rates, offer your business to other shipping companies. Shipping is very competitive and there are always rate saving deals to be made.

4. Product Stock and Business Supplies
Continually research the prices you pay for the product stock you sell to customers and the supplies you need to operate your business. Don’t compromise on quality, but keep an eye out for similar, or the same, products at lower cost. As the amount of business you do increases, ask your suppliers for discounts. Plus, ask your regular suppliers for other similar products that could satisfy your customer demand but at a lower cost. You may just stumble upon a new fast moving product line.

Whenever possible buy in bulk, not only for your product stock, but also for the items that your business uses on a continuous basis. A good way to do this is to observe which office supplies you always seem to be running out of. Shop around for the most attractive price. When you buy large amounts at once, you will usually get much larger discounts.

5. Embrace the Paperless Office
Businesses often overlook the expense incurred by having hard-copy documents. If you could reduce, even by half, the amount of paper, ink, mailing supplies, postage, etc., that your business consumes, it would surely be a noticeable amount. You don’t have to go completely paperless, and probably can’t as there are always some records and other documents that must exist in the physical world. But most need not. Surely you are already sending all your invoices by email, and the ones you receive probably don’t need to be printed out. Almost all important paperwork can be kept in digital format and stored on a computer rather than in a filing cabinet 

6. Promote Your Business Online
You are probably already marketing your business online, as that has become a crucial component in attracting customers. You’ve been building your brand and establishing your presence on the Internet ever since you set up your company website, but you need to keep going in that direction. Your money is better spent on starting a business blog, leveraging your social media properties and advertising with the appropriate online sites and tools, as opposed to the old print media methods. This will invite quick responses from new and established customers at a lower cost and a higher volume per dollar spent.

7. Premises
Your premises may be one of your most expensive overhead items. If you are just starting out, don’t lease a place of business until it’s absolutely necessary. If you can work from home, continue to do so for as long as possible. You already pay the various utilities at home, so running your business there will only increase these bills by a small percentage. Don’t add rent or mortgage payments to your expenses until it makes proper business sense. Even then, try to find a facility that minimizes your cost exposure by perhaps renting some of the space to another business or looking for a location where you may pick up some passing retail trade.

Business places are often expensive but, in many cases, you can reduce these costs to a great extent. By looking for a co-working arrangement, a sub-lease, a temporary office or temporary storage site for product inventory, or by setting-up a home office, you can reduce the cost of your premises.

8. Get an Accountant
Save money in every way possible but keep in mind that a good accountant will save you the money you pay many times over. Good businesses fail on the back of poor advice. Good businesspeople are cleaned out and demoralized by the unforgiving tax man, also due to the lack of good advice.

Even if you don’t have your accountant doing all your bookkeeping and compliance work, you should still have up-to-date information at all times. So when establishing a business use software from the start, and if you can get into the practice of recording every transaction more or less as it happens, you won’t wind up with a backlog of work to complete. The information your system provides can be used by your accountant to give you the analysis and reporting you need to make good business decisions, and should in-turn reduce your annual expense.

The Bottom Line
It’s impossible to run a business without some overhead. But these costs can be minimized or eliminated in many cases, leaving you with more profit in your pocket. The cost savings process may seem obvious, but even the best organized among us forget, or put off, our cost saving procedures. However, continually analyzing and reducing costs will not only dramatically increase the chances of your business succeeding but, if implemented on an already successful business, they will seriously increase profits.

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.