Stay on Track with 8 Essential Accounting Tips

The New Year is here! It’s a time when many of us make resolutions to improve our health, finances or family situations. As a business owner, New Year’s resolutions are also a great way to make positive changes for the future – especially when it comes to finances and accounting. If you’ve struggled with the daily challenges of running a small business, here are some essential accounting tips that will get you back on track and on the road to success.

Think ahead. Are there some expenses you’ll need to incur in the coming year such as new office equipment, computer upgrade or remodeling/repairs? Plan ahead by setting aside money now so you’ll have the resources when you need it. You can also take the stress out of next year’s taxes by putting back a certain amount of cash each month.

Invest in accounting software. A little investment in accounting software upfront will make all the difference in the long run. Programs like Sage 50 allow you to keep everything you need in one place for easy access and recovery and will help you track unpaid invoices, billable hours and your budget as well as create customized invoices. Always be sure your current program is up-to-date.

Don’t mix business with personal. As your business grows, it’s important to separate your business and personal expenses. If you use personal funds to supplement your business, record them as loans or capital contributions. Your accountant can assist you with any questions you have.

Check, check and re-check. Even though your accounting software does a lot of the work for you, data entry errors still happen. Monthly reconciliation of your bank account as well as running monthly error reports can go a long way in making sure your books are as accurate as possible.

Keep an eye on inventory. Track all inventory (i.e. dates purchased, stock numbers, purchase prices, dates sold, etc). Managing your inventory will help cut down on “misplaced” items or alert you to suspicious activity or theft.

Track every expense. Avoid using cash for businesses purchases whenever possible. A credit or debit card will make tracking statements easy, plus it will help you and your employees in recording true business expenses (which is information you’ll need to know come tax time).

If expense reports are a pain in your side, Expensify integrates with Sage 50 and makes capturing receipts, tracking time or mileage, business travel and creating expense reports in a timely manner easy — for both you and your employees. Just be sure to set up a clear, published time frame for submitting expenses — whether bi-weekly, monthly, etc). When employees delay filing their expenses, not only does it hurt their pockets, it can also cause cash-flow challenges for you, not to mention associated accounting nightmares.

Make your clients pay. Sending out an invoice doesn’t always mean a check’s in the mail. Don’t let your clients avoid regular payments and always follow up on unpaid invoices. Sage 50 allows you to put an account on hold once it reaches an outstanding dollar amount (set by you) so additional orders can’t be placed. This safeguard keeps past-due clients from accidentally slipping through the cracks.

Make time for your books. Don’t get caught up in the “end of the year scramble.” You may find yourself spending hours trying to track down receipts and other documents that are several months old and that is just plain stressful. Put your bookkeeping day on the calendar and stick to it – you’ll feel much better when the end of the year rolls around.

Can’t do it all?
Running your business can be stressful enough without dealing with all the financial responsibilities that come with it. If you simply don’t have the time it takes to keep it all straight, that’s OK. Hire a part-time bookkeeper to help keep you on track with finances and payroll. Maybe there’s a financial advisor or an accountant in your area who knows your industry that you can rely on for expertise and advice when needed.

Year-End Survival Checklist

There’s no doubt the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but once the celebrations are over, that tune quickly changes. January can be the busiest time of the year for you and your business with all that goes along with year-end close. Use this year-end survival checklist to get a strong start on the new year.

Make your list and check it twice
Here are a few items every business should look at and/or make sure are completed before closing the year:

  • Reconcile general ledger accounts to bank statements
  • Complete all invoicing
  • Record all your supplier bills
  • Print year-end reports for historical review (i.e. accounts payable/receivable, inventory, financial, payroll, etc)
  • Make adjustments to reports as needed ( i.e. write off bad debts, account for depreciation expenses, adjust entries for accruals of payroll tax liabilities or pre-paid expenses, etc)
  • Print and mail 1099s (due by 1/31)
  • Print and mail payroll forms if you do it yourself (W-2, W-3, 940, 941)
  • Print and mail 1096 to IRS (by 2/28)

Wiz Through Year-End with Sage 50 Year-End Wizard
When you’re ready, close any other applications and start the process at the end of your business day because you’ll want to leave your computer running. Before launching the wizard, print out any items such as invoices and payroll checks as well as clear the Waiting on Bill from Vendor check box in the Purchases/Receive Inventory window for any outstanding vendor purchases.

The Year-End Wizard guides you through the process. Simply select Tasks, System, Year-end Wizard.  Sage 50 requires you to make a backup so give the back up a unique name and consider putting it on removable media (CD, flash drive, external memory, etc.) for future reference.

You will also be prompted to run year-end reports, which you can do on paper, export to Excel, or to a PDF file. It’s recommend you retain a backup file of your Peachtree/Sage 50 data for seven years, plus save PDF copies of the following reports for seven years as well:

  • General Ledger for the year you are closing
  • Under general ledger, General Journal for the year you are closing
  • Under accounts payable, Check Register for the year you are closing
  • Under accounts receivable, Cash Receipts Journal for the year you are closing
  • Under payroll, Payroll Journal for the year you are closing

The best advice to survive year-end? Keep your financial activities consistent and thorough each month of the year (with the help of Sage 50), so you’ll prevent year-end from becoming a major undertaking.

 

photo attribution: © melpomene/depositphotos