receipts
If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard something about keeping your receipts.  And we’ve heard some good myths about when and when you don’t have to keep them.  We’re here to set the record straight and tell you exactly when you need to keep receipts.

First, let me explain that there are different suggested records for different types of transactions.  For example, what you keep to prove the purchase of inventory is different than gas for your car.  We’re going to explore two categories today: General, and Travel/Entertainment expenses. But there are many more that we’re not discussing today.

General Expenses

What are they?

General expenses are things like paper, utilities, cell phone, etc.  Those types of expenses must be be proved with a bank/credit card statement, receipt, or invoice that shows the date, amount, and busienss purpose.

How long should I keep records for?

Generally speaking, you’ll want to keep records for at least 3 years from when you claimed them on your tax return.  The good news is that you can keep them in paper form, or electronically.  We’re a big fan of using the mobile app for Xero to take a snapshot of the receipt, and recording the transaction right on the spot when it happens.  You can also use other systems like Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox and Box to store your records.  If you choose to keep paper, then have a good file system organized by year and type of expense, at the very least.

 

Travel & Entertainment Expenses

What are they?

41131785-business-team-on-the-way-to-meetingsJust as it sounds, expenses you incur to travel, take clients out to lunch.  It also covers lodging, rental cars, transportation, and a host of other things.  See IRS Publication 463 that is referenced below for more things that qualify as travel and entertainment expenses.

 

 

How should I keep records and for how long?

The trick here is to have “adequate” records.  There are 4 main points that you must prove in order to have a deemed adequate expense in this category:

  1. Amount
  2. Time (for travel)
  3. Place or Description
  4. Business Purpose

What that basically means is that you must have a receipt, log book, or some kind of record that proves those 4 main points for each expenses you deduct.  Estimates don’t count.  The long and short of this is: that you keep all receipts/invoices for each expense in this category.  There are only a few exceptions, one of them being that if your expense in under $75 (except lodging), you can simply provide bank statements to prove you expense.  Of course there are more exceptions, but we don’t have time to go into them in this post.

And like above, you should keep these records for 3 years after you file the tax return for the year you’re taking the deduction in.

 

The IRS has some pretty elaborate articles and publications on this topic.  We referenced IRS Publication 463.  Feel free to check it out if you need to dive in a bit deeper.  Or, leave a comment and reach out to us and we can help you navigate the murky waters of business deductions.

 

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“My bank says I have $5000, but my Profit and Loss says I made $10,000… huh?!”

Ever asked this question?

With this post, let’s dive into one of the most mis-understood and under-used reports that you have in your accounting software arsenal: Statement of Cash Flows (aka Cash Flow Statement).  This statement will answer the very question may have plagued you for some time now.

In short, this report follows one of the most important things in your business: CASH.  It tracks where the cash came from, and where it went.  The report breaks up your income and spending into three different categories: Operating, Investing, and Financing activities.

Here’s a brief explanation of each:

  1. Operating Activities: this is income and expenses from regular revenue and expenses in your business.  For example, sale of services/products that you provide, and money spent on supplies.
  2. Investing Activities: this is money spent on selling and purchasing assets.  For example, you buy a new computer and sell an old vehicle that the business owns.
  3. Financing Activities: this is money that you or an investor infuses into the business, or money taken out by owners.  For example, you contribute money into the business to cover expenses, or you take money out of the business to pay your self as an owner/shareholder.

Now, let’s show you what a statement looks like.  For this post, we’re using a statement from Xero.  QuickBooks will give you one that looks a little bit different, the differences are minor, and it tells you the same thing.

Xero Cash Summary Demo Company US

Or, here’s a downloadable version of the same report:

Demo Company (US) – Cash Summary

This report answers the question “where did my cash go?”, and will show you where the cash went.  At the very least, this report should help you understand your business activities so that you can make better decisions.  If you need further help making sense of this, or maybe your business has a unique situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us.

So now that you know more about your cash, what are you going to do with it?
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Having the ability to process your accounting, payroll, CRM, etc., on any computer (PC or Mac) is all within reach now for any business starting out.  And since we’ve helped many businesses setup cloud-based processes, naturally we’ve done a lot of trial and error on what applications work.  These are many out there, but we’ve narrowed it down to our top 5 favorites for most small businesses.

1.  Google Mail (Gmail):  Since email is the center of most business, we figured that it should be #1!  Google mail, aka “Gmail”, has been the go-to mail app for a lot people.  And rightfully so.  It’s spam filters are superb, and you can customize it how you like to read/process emails.  Google even offers a business class version called Google Apps.  And while this version is not free, it offers no advertising and increased storage amounts.  The learning curve is very short.  Some of our favorite features:

  • Gmail is FREE (Google Apps is $60 per user per year)
  • Excellent spam filters
  • Good mobile app
  • Free access to Calendar
  • Free access to Google Drive (cloud file storage)
  • Free access to Docs, Sheets, and Slides (Google’s equivalent to Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)

 

2.  Google Calendar:  A sister app to Gmail (above), let’s you keep track of your schedule using a number of tools.  Integration between Gmail and Calendar is tight, and has a host of solutions to run many types of businesses.  Some of our favorite features:

  • Meetings are easy to setup and invite attendees
  • Visibility into who has accepted/not accepted meetings
  • Can schedule recurring calendar events (i.e. once per month, week, every 2 weeks, etc.)
  • Can create calendar events directly from an email in Gmail
  • Can create and share different calendars for different purposes (i.e. calendar for each team member, company wide vacation calendar, personal calendars, etc.)

 

3. Xero Accounting Software: Designed to give the small business what they need within a few clicks, is our top choice.  With solid functions like invoicing, bills, quotes, and real-time bank feeds, you can manage your business from your computer, iPad, or any iOS or Android device.  One of the things we love about Xero is it’s add on ecosystem.  Want to see if your client paid you, from your CRM?  You can do it with their add on’s.  You can build out really smooth business processes this way.  We really like:

  • Online invoicing
  • Connect to payment services like PayPal and Stripe
  • Customer/Vendor Management
  • Bank transactions directly imported from bank
  • ascetically pleasing and just looks good
  • Reports exportable to PDF, Excel, and Google Sheets
  • Easy to collaborate with your accountant or other people

 

4.  Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll):  Designed for just one person, or scales up to several employees, this payroll has direct integration to Xero and QuickBooks Online.  With it’s great feature list, and straightforward pricing, it’s hard to beat.  Here’s a few of it’s valuable features:

  • Direct Deposit
  • Employee self on-boarding
  • Simple and easy to use interface
  • Full service payroll – they process all the payments and file all the returns for you
  • Can pay contractors along side employees
  • Integration with Worker’s Comp Insurance and soon, Health Benefits
  • Integration with Xero

 

5. Evernote: We’ve come to use Evernote every day here at the firm.  Mainly because we can access it from any device we’re on.  No matter where we are, we can get to our notes!  Evernote is great for just jotting down a simple note, or connecting to other services like Uber Conference to keep track of phone calls, meetings, you name it.  You can build out folder and tag structure, or just starting taking notes that are searchable.  Some of the best features are:

  • On any device (windows, mac, android, iOS)
  • Can create any type of note (meeting, to-do list, etc.)
  • Can set due dates for notes (great for to-do lists)
  • Can add attachments like PDF’s
  • Can email a note directly into Evernote
  • Can share and chat about notes, directly from within Evernote

 

Believe me, we could go on and on about other apps and the great things they can do.  But for any one looking to start, or run their existing business more efficiently, these apps are more than adequate to get you started.  We love talking to folks to help them make their business run smoother and get you back to doing what you love.  So feel free to leave us a comment, or give us a ring if you if we can help.

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