By J.T. Ripton
Accounting is often one of the toughest jobs for small business owners, especially those who don’t have a lot of experience or a strong background in bookkeeping. Following a few simple tips throughout the year can make it much easier to track expenses and file taxes when the time comes.
1. Plan Ahead
The first step is to look ahead at the potential needs for your company and plan for these expenses. For example, if you know that you will need to replace expensive equipment in the near future, make sure to set aside funds every month to cover the costs. Other major expenses that may arise include office supplies, inventory, maintenance, and repairs. You can also set aside money each month to cover the annual taxes, so you won’t stress about the amount you need to pay when April 15 arrives.
2. Use Reliable Software
Business bookkeeping software has come a long way over the past decade, and some programs make it much simpler to input expenses and cash flow. Sage software is a great example of this, since it allows you to keep everything you need in one place for easy recovery as needed. From tracking the status of unpaid invoices, to creating customized invoices, to tracking billable hours and budget spent, online accounting software is a great way to save time and money. Some programs like Google Drive also offer cloud access to your files, which means that you can pull up information from anywhere instead of having to go to the office to find a document or receipt.
3. Separate Business and Personal
If you use your business credit card to pay for a personal expense, make sure to track that and separate it as soon as possible. It is much easier to separate expenses if you use separate accounts to pay for them, but you may accidentally use your business card for a non-company purchase. Business costs are tax deductible, so make it easier on yourself by separating them every time you make a purchase.
4. Schedule Yourself
When it comes to bookkeeping, it might seem easier to just put it off until the end of the year. However, this is going to result in a big headache when you are trying to track down receipts and invoices that may be months old. Schedule time each week or each month to work on your books and stay as current as possible. It may be tempting to skip this every so often, but when you can stick to the schedule, it will be much easier to stay on top of the finances without feeling so stressed.
5. Review Invoices
Be sure to keep close track of your invoices, since some vendors are notorious for paying bills late. You can probably use your accounting software to run a monthly report and determine what invoices are still outstanding. This gives you the flexibility to send reminders and follow up on outstanding bills before too much time passes. It is also smart to keep a close eye on your cash flow statement, so you can avoid the dreaded insufficient funds message on a payment.
6. Call in a Pro
For some things, it is definitely worth the investment to bring in an expert. You may rely on a financial advisor who specializes in your industry, or you might just need an accountant who can pay your taxes and payroll. You can even use a student intern who is working on an accounting degree if the budget is tight.
7. Track Expenses
Most experts discourage business owners from using cash to pay for any business expense, since it can be very difficult to track. When you use a credit card or debit card, you can view the transactions right away and make sure that all items are true business expenses to avoid issues with write-offs and taxes.
Accurate bookkeeping is an important part of business ownership, so it is crucial to stay on top of the expenses and invoices to prevent problems. If you have questions about bookkeeping, you can always rely on an expert, but once you have your system down, it should be much easier to keep track of the money coming in and out of your company each day.
J.T. Ripton is a freelance writer out of Tampa, who focuses on topics relating to business and technology. Follow him at @JTRipton.