It’s that time again and the holidays are fast approaching.  It’s a time of excitement, family, get togethers, and…finances!  For most, year-end is the time when we start thinking about taxes and our financial situation for the year.  December 31st is too late, but if you’re reading this now, you have a good chance to get things in order to make tax time and other year-end tasks less stressful.  Keep reading to see how to get ready!

Catch Up Your Bookkeeping

If you have some a back log of bookkeeping to do, now is the time to get caught up and ready for January.  Bookkeeping can be as simple as a spreadsheet if you’re a sole proprietor, or if you have LLC or Corporation, then you really should use software like Xero.  Don’t spend hours and hours on this.  Technology is come along away in the past 5 years so chances are “there’s an app for that”!

Having your books caught up will tell you how much income and expenses you have for the year.  Once you know that, then you’ll have a good idea of what your tax bill is going to look like.

Taxes

If you’re self-employed chanced are that you should be paying estimated tax payments–which are basically tax prepayments.  Reviewing how much you’ve paid in, and making any necessary catch up payments will help ensure you don’t have a large tax bill and will help you avoid any pre-payment penalties.

Additionally, you should review your net income to ensure you aren’t getting caught with a large unexpected tax bill.  Reviewing this will help you know what to expect when it’s time to file taxes.  And if you have extra cash, you can even pay some or all of your tax liability before you file your return.

 

Retirement Accounts

Saving for retirement has almost become a cliché term.  But did you know most business owners aren’t taking advantage of having their company pay themselves for retirement?  It’s one of the great tax planning tools that a business owner can use!  The company (which you own) pays into a retirement account for you.  So it’s like getting a double benefit!  Every business owner should be doing this.

There are many different options for retirement accounts.  Whether it’s a 401K, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA, find the one that works for you and get it started.

Re-evaluate Your Pricing & Costs

End of year is a great time to look at your pricing and costs.  It’s also a great time to review your Gross Profit % and make sure you’re charging enough for your products/services, or adjust your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS).  Keep in mind that generally speaking, your COGS should be no more than 30% of your revenue.  If it is, you could be bleeding cash and you may soon run out.  If you run out of cash, guess what?  The jig is up and you may be out of business.  In order to do this you’ll need to of course have your bookkeeping caught up so do that first, and then review these numbers.

 

…your COGS should be no more than 30% of your revenue

Review Your Systems and Processes

Finally, review your internal systems and processes.  Or, maybe this is the time where you commit to write them down.  Mapping out your systems and processes does a few things for you:

  1. You can discover inefficiencies that you may have never seen.  Writing something down  has the amazing effect of providing objectivity!  You can use paper or online tools like Google Docs or Evernote to do this.  That way, if you ever have staff taking over certain jobs, they’ll know what to do.
  2. It also prepares you to be able to hire staff and delegate tasks or jobs.  Doing this allows you to take on more of a managerial/strategy role and be less of a technician.  As business owners, we should all be moving away from the technical side of the business so we can work on the vision and growing the company.

 

As business owners we should all be moving away from the technical side of the business so we can work on the vision and growing the company

 

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list by any means, but it should get you started.  If you need help, just ask!  We’ve helped countless businesses do these things and we can offer down-to-earth advice that will make doing this, easy!

 

 

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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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16261450-three-road-signs-pointing-to-spending-saving-and-budget-to-symbolize-budgeting-and-savings-in-your-p

Whether you’re budgeting for your business, organization, or a department you’re in charge of, it can be a daunting task!  But believe it or not, the nuts of bolts of how to create, manage, and execute a budget is the easy part.  Most often, the challenge is to train ourselves how to treat the funds we have stewardship over.

Traditional Budgeting, Right or Wrong?

If you’ve ever worked for large corporations, institutions, or organizations, the attitude is usually “use what’s been allotted to you, or lose it!”  That attitude is reactive in nature because you base the budget off of what happened in the past.  So, you may ask, what’s wrong with that?  The short answer maybe nothing at all.  But if you work for a cash sensitive business where funds are closely monitored, either due to cash flow, or the nature of the funds is more custodial in nature (tithes in churches), this is generally the wrong approach to budgeting.  Chances are if you’re reading this, that you fall under that categorization.

The Proactive Approach

Zero-based Budgeting (ZBB) is a term that has become popular in recent years, and is truly the proactive approach to budgeting.  Instead of basing budget amounts and expenditures on what happened in the past, it requires those who are designing the budget to ask “what do we need for this year or program?”.  So instead of using last year’s performance, you effectively wipe the slate clean and ONLY plan for what your expectations are coming up.

For example, let’s say you are budgeting for your kids extra-curricular activities for the upcoming year.  Last year your kids played soccer, with a total cost of $300 for the year.  This year, you decide your kids don’t have what it takes to be the star player, so you put them in Karate, for a total annual cost of $1200.  Now, let’s budget!

Under the traditional method, you would use history to create your new budget so we have $300 in the budget.  I bet you can already see the problem!  Now, because you used a traditional budget, before you make it half of the year, you are already over budget.

Under the ZBB method, you think ahead: “I know my kids played soccer for $300, but I know they want to try karate and that’s going to cost $1200″.  So you budget for $1200.  Viola! You just created a budget and it looks like you’re going to stick to it!

Conclusion

You can see the difference in the budgeting methods used in the example above.  It’s up to you to think about your budget from a “Zero-based” point of reference so that you can use your funds proactively.  It may be hard, and take some cognitive training, but in the end, it will be worth it when your are using hard-earned funds, to their maximum potential to achieve your goals.

If you have questions, please comment below, or “Contact Us” and we’ll be happy to help!

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In our effort to educate the small business owner in how to keep more of their hard earned money, often we get asked: So what is better ROTH or Traditional IRA’s?  So we asked a local Financial Expert to explain the differences.

 

What type of IRA (Traditional or Roth) best meets your financial goals?

Tax Benefits:

Roth:  Tax-free growth.  Tax-free qualified withdrawals.

Traditional:  Tax-deferred growth Contributions may be tax-deductible..

 

Eligibility Age:

Roth:  Any age with employment compensation.

Traditional:  Under age 70½ with employment compensation.

 

Taxation at Withdrawal:  

Roth:  Contributions are always withdrawn tax-free.  Earnings are federally tax-free after the five-year aging requirement has been satisfied and certain conditions are met.

Traditional:  Withdrawals of pre-tax contributions and any earnings are taxable when distributed.

 

Penalties at Withdrawal: 

Roth:  A non-qualified distribution is subject to taxation of earnings and a 10% additional tax unless an exception applies.  (A distribution from a Roth IRA is federally tax-free and penalty-free provided that the five-year aging requirement has been satisfied and one of the following conditions is met: age 59½, qualified first time home purchase, or death.)

Traditional: Withdrawals before 59½ may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty unless an exception applies.  (For Traditional IRAs, penalty-free withdrawals include but are not limited to: qualified higher education expenses; qualified first home purchase (lifetime limit of $10,000); certain major medical expenses; certain long-term unemployment expenses; disability; or substantially equal periodic payments.)

 

Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s)

Roth:  Not subject to minimum required distributions during the lifetime of the original owner

Traditional:  RMD’s starting at 70½

 

Maximum Contribution: 

For both 2013 and 2014: $5,500 ($6,500 if you are 50 or older) or 100% of employment compensation, whichever is less

* Catch up contributions:  Individuals age 50 or older (in the calendar year of their contribution) can contribute an additional $1,000 each year

** Contribution deadline:  Tuesday, April 15, 2014, for the 2013 tax year

Note: A Rollover IRA is a Traditional IRA often used for rollovers from an old workplace plan, such as a 401(k).

Feel free to reach out to either us if you have further questions.
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