How to Choose payroll service blog post

Whenever I mention payroll to business owners I see the telltale signs of them “checking out” mentally, and it’s not surprising!  With terms like FICA, Workers Comp, Unemployment and ObamaCare, it’s no wonder small businesses are confused and sometimes just downright disgusted by it.  In fact, we often tell clients that if they get one thing right in running their business, make sure you hire a competent payroll service!

We want to help you understand how to make the right choice in choosing a payroll service.  So let’s get into it!

Taxes

Penalties on payroll tax errors are some of the most stringent that the IRS will shell out.  So you need to get this right!  Payroll companies will work payroll taxes in one of two ways: impounding and you paying the taxes yourself.

Impounding means that the payroll company takes the taxes from your account, holds on to them, and then pays them on time to the IRS and state agencies.  Sure, they make money on holding onto your funds, but they also take full responsibility for making the payments on time.

Some providers make it pretty easy to pay the taxes yourself via ACH and electronic payments.  However, it’s up to you to press “Submit” and make them on time.

The Verdict:

Use payroll services that impound.  It’s easier to manage cash flow because the taxes are taken out right when you run payroll and the payroll company assumes the responsibility to make the payments on time.

Direct Deposit and Checks

This may seem like a pretty basic thing but did you know that you can save yourself some time and costs by ONLY offering direct deposit?  Direct Deposit is a great way to pay your employees because they get paid right into the accounts.  Checks can be used, but they also create a headache when it comes time to reconcile your bank account.  Payroll companies also charge to push that paper around.  Have employees that don’t have a bank account?  Give them a “Pay Card’ that has it’s own routing and account number and you can “load” it with their pay each pay period.

The Verdict:

Use a payroll service that focuses on direct deposit and you will most likely save money on monthly service fees, postage and mailing, and time when reconciling your bank account.

Integration with Other Apps

Do you use accounting or online scheduling software like Xero or Deputy?  Use a service that ingrates with them to eliminate data entry and make running payroll, easy.  If using online scheduling, within a few clicks you can approve timesheets and send them straight to payroll.  This alone can save you hours each pay period.

The Verdict:

Search out payroll services that are open that integrate with other apps that you use.  Who knows, you may even discover an app you can use for your business this way!

Advanced HR Features

Some businesses have 1-5 employees, some have 50.  And depending on how many you have, will determine how much help you’ll need managing them.

If you have a large staff to manage, payroll companies like ADP have robust services beyond just running payroll that offers on-site HR reps that can come out “do your dirty work” for you, a.k.a.hire and fire.  They can also help you navigate the tricky waters of the ACA (ObamaCare) and provide employee handbooks, amongst other things.

If only a few employees, then a company like Gusto is often a good choice.  While they don’t provide robust HR services, they can offer very competitive rates on Workers Comp insurance, and make managing your employees pretty easy.

The Verdict:

Make a choice based on your payroll needs and employee size.

Pricing and Cost

This is what it boils down to right?  There are two methods that payroll services use to charge their fees: a flat fee per month, or fee per pay period.

Flat fee per month gives you a predictable cost each month.  Generally, there is a base cost and then a per-employee-per-month cost.  So as long as you know how many employees you’re paying, your fee is pretty predictable.  And, these companies don’t charge for anything extra like W-2’s and quarterly reports, as long as you are a subscriber.

Per-pay-period providers charge each time your run a payroll.  For most businesses, this is twice per month.  They will also charge additional fees for W-2’s and quarterly reports.  There are also other charges for mailing checks, etc., so make sure you have the payroll service spell our EVERY thing that is going to cost before you sign up.

The Verdict:

Use a service provider that charges a flat fee per month.  There is less confusion on fees and it’s generally cheaper each month.

Make it Happen!

As you can see, there’re lots to consider when choosing the right payroll service provider for you.  We can help you make that choice and get you in touch with the people to make things happen.   Have questions, leave a comment or reach out to us on our Get In Touch page and we’ll be happy to help you make the best decision for you and your business.

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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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Here at iAccounting Solutions, Xero is our first choice in helping small businesses keep better track of of their finances.  That’s why when Xero announced the Business Performance Dashboard, we were pretty excited.

What Is It?

In short, the Performance Dashboard is a simple way to check the health of your business.  By using simple formulas, you can measure Key Performance Indicators, aka KPI’s, to know how your business is fairing.  However, instead of running complex spreadsheets or doing it by hand, in true Xero fashion, they have built them in so you can find and use them easily.

Xero   performance db

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do They Mean?

That’s really the important question isn’t it?  In the world of Financial Analysis, there are thousands of ratios.  But here are the top 4 that we think are most useful to small businesses.

1. Current Ratio

This ratio (also sometimes called the “Quick Ratio) measures your ability to pay your liabilities.  A healthy range is 1.5 to 3.  Any score below 1.5 means that you may have a problem paying your debts.  And anything above a 3, means that you may not be using your assets wisely.

Xero   Business Performance   Demo Company  US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Gross Profit % (or Gross Profit Margin)

This is where the numbers get fun!  This percentage tells you the amount left over, after you’ve paid for all your costs that are associated in making that revenue, or Cost of Sales.  Healthy Gross Profit % generally changes from industry to industry.  If you don’t know what your standard should look like, reach out to us, we can help you with that.  Comparing it to industry standards can help you determine if you’re paying too much in costs, charging enough for services/products, and a whole range of indicators that show how the health of your business.

Xero   BD Gross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Net Profit % (or Net Profit Margin)

Perhaps one of the most popular metrics–this tells you how efficient your business is when comparing your expenses, to your net sales.  Although, this number varies from industry to industry, 10% or better is considered to be good.  You can gauge your overall business success with this %.

Xero BD Net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Accounts Receivable Days

This measures how fast you collect on your invoices.  Knowing this allows you to plan around your cash flow very effectively.  Knowing this can even prevent cash flow disasters from happening to your business.

 

Xero BD AR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the end, these ratios and percentages are only as good as the information you put into your accounting system.  Good reporting is the backbone of any business that wants to grow and succeed.

 

What Does This Mean For My Business?

Want to have a more in depth conversation about these topics and what they mean?  Just fill out our “Contact Us” page and we’ll get in touch.  Or, give us a ring.  We can explain of these topics common language so you can understand them.

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22495836-tax-documents-with-accessories

 

 

 

 

If you run a small business, then chances are you maybe required to file 1099’s.  These are probably one of the most misunderstood forms business owners file.

Here’s the scoop:

What are they for?

Form 1099 is used to report money paid to individuals who are not your employees.  The IRS uses your 1099 to make sure the people you pay are reporting the income on their tax returns.

Who should I file a 1099 for?

File a 1099 for everyone that is not an employee (individuals you’re not withholding taxes for) that you pay more than $600 to in a calendar year.  You are not required to file 1099’s for money paid to company’s (LLC, Corps).

 How do I file a 1099?

There are many service providers that will do this for you.  Whether it’s your accountant, or a web service, we recommend using one to assure that they are accurate, and filed timely.  All 1099’s should be filed and in the mail by Jan 31st.  But if you’re a DIY (do it yourself) type of person, there are plenty of services on the web that do this for you at a very reasonable cost.  Our favorite is Track1099

How do I keep track of how much and who to file 1099’s for?

This is easily done in accounting software like Xero and QuickBooks.  You can designate contacts/vendors as 1099 recipients, and as long as you record all your transactions, you can run a report at the end of the year that will tell you how much to file them for.  We recommend using Xero for this.  It’s easy, and will be a breeze to setup and do.

What happens if I don’t file 1099’s?

You may get away with it…for awhile.  But if the IRS decides to audit you, and you didn’t file, then watch for penalties coming your way!

What do I do if I have no clue what to do?

Easy, reach out to us and we can take care of from start to finish!  We can help no matter what state you live in.

 

Have questions, feel free to leave comments and we’ll answer them ASAP.  Want to reach out directly, fill out our “Contact” page and we’ll get back to you within 1 business day.

Thanks for reading!

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Welcome back to our “Making the Switch from QuickBooks to Xero” series.  In this post, we’ll talk about what Step 2.  In case you missed it, click on Step 1 to start from the beginning.  So now that you’ve cleaned up your lists, now it’s time to look at a few financial reports and make sure your numbers look reasonable.

Step 2: Review your Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss statements for completeness

Run a Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss statements.  What you’re going to do here is use your trained eye to spot any inconsistencies.  YOU, will be able to do this much easier than any accountant as you know your business better than anyone else.  And, YOU also know what your expenses look like from month to month, so it will be easier for you to answer any future questions by your accountant.

Scan the Balance Sheet.  If there any negative numbers besides the bank balance, you may want to drill down (double click on the number) and see if there are any blatant mistakes.  Having a negative asset or liability is generally not normal and can be indicative of mistakes.  If you spot it and can fix it, go ahead and do so now.  If you see it, but don’t know how to fix it, start a list for your accountant.  If you don’t know why it is negative, just leave it and tell your accountant about it.

Next, Scan the Profit and Loss statement and do the same thing.  There should be no negative numbers on this.  If there are, repeat the steps above in reference to the balance sheet.  Also, look at the expenses accounts and make sure they look “reasonable”.   For example, if there is $20,000 in the Meals and Entertainment account, take a look and make sure something didn’t get expensed incorrectly.  Doing this will help you review what’s there, and answer any questions the accountant has when it’s tax time.

Step 2 is complete.  Stay tuned for Step 3 and more to come about switching from QuickBooks to Xero.  Have questions?  Don’t hesitate to reach out and give us a ring or shoot us an email.

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QuickBooks giving you a headache?  Or maybe you’d rather listen to nails on a chalkboard rather than do your accounting.  Either way, switching to Xero Accounting will set you on your journey to an easy, and even enjoyable way to get your accounting done.  Even if you are paying an accountant to do this for you, it will still require some input from you, the small business owner.  We’ve worked with lots of small businesses in converting from QuickBooks to Xero.  So we decided to post some useful tips on how to start, and carry out this process.

Step 1: Clean up your QuickBooks company file

Ok, so if you’re not an accountant, and you’ve been doing your own bookkeeping, chances are that you’ve made some “boo boo’s” in your books.  QuickBooks is a very forgiving program.  Meaning that it allows you enough freedom to hang your self…so to speak!   DON’T WORRY…Even if your QuickBooks is a mess, you can still get useful information out of it and get it in shape to transfer to the easiest online accounting tool: Xero Accounting.

Here’s what to do:

Clean up your contacts, vendors, and other lists.  Go through and merge, or archive the ones you don’t need.  Whittle your  customer and vendor lists down to only what you use now.

Next, go through your chart of accounts and do the same thing.  Make sure your chart of accounts is up to date, accurate, and that there aren’t too many accounts that you’re not using.

Lastly, make sure all your transactions are entered into QuickBooks BEFORE  you get the file converted.  Whether that’s bank transactions, credit card transactions, or whatever else, just make sure they’re all in there.  If you want the “extra credit”, reconcile your transactions with the “bank reconciliation” feature.  This is not absolutely necessary, but will make future steps a bit easier.

Once you have done these things, go to Step 2 blog post (coming soon).  If you need help along the way, just reach out to us and we’ll be  happy to help!

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The latest software and most secure technologies are at our fingertips.  We invest in the training and products that will make your accounting experience easy, accurate, and professional:

Xero, Quickbooks, FreshBooks, SmartVault, Bill.com, and if there’s anything else you’re used to using that makes your accounting experience easier, just ask.  We love to help things go smoothly.



Part of the reason for QuickBooks’ success is its exceptional flexibility. By allowing users to turn features and preferences on and off, the same software can be used by a wide variety of business types and sizes.

In some cases, the default settings that QuickBooks supplies will work fine for your company. This is not necessarily true in the case of purchase orders, since the whole inventory procurement process is so complex, and users can have such a diverse range of needs.


Figure 1: QuickBooks 2013’s default Create Purchase Orders screen. You can see that formatting options are available when you click the Formatting tab. 

So before you order your first widget, make sure that your purchase order form is designed to accommodate all of the information you want to record and track, with no unnecessary data fields to confuse staff.

Working with Templates

There aren’t many program preferences to check. If you can open a purchase order, you’re set. If not, go to Edit | Preferences | Items & Inventory and be sure that the box next toInventory and purchase orders are active is checked.

What you want to find first is the Additional Customization screen for the Custom Purchase Order Template. This is easily accessed from the Create Purchase Orderscreen itself in QuickBooks 2013, but if you’re using an earlier edition, go to Lists | Templates | Custom Purchase Order Template. Double-click on it to open the Basic Customization page. Here, you can add a logo, change fonts and colors, etc. But go ahead and click on the Additional Customization button at the bottom of the screen. This window opens:


Figure 2: The left pane of the Additional Customization window contains additional fields that you might want on your purchase orders, like Ship Via and Terms

(Tip: If you want to design multiple purchase order templates, click Manage Templates on the Basic Customization screen, then Copy on the Manage Templates page. Rename the form and make your modifications. This version will always be available as an option when you create purchase orders.)

Making It Yours

Each of this window’s four tabs opens a new screen that gives you customization control over a different element of the purchase order form: the top, bottom and midsection, and printing options. You simply check the boxes next to the fields that you want to add to the current form (be sure to check both columns if you want the fields to appear both onscreen and in your printed versions; sometimes, one is not an option) and uncheck any you want to delete.

In the right pane of this window, a dynamic preview changes to reflect each addition or deletion. And when you’ve finished altering the set of fields, you can see an actual print preview. Close that and keep clicking OK until you get back to the Templates window.

This simplicity and ease carries over into the more cosmetic elements of your purchase order. Make sure the template you want to redesign is highlighted and click Templates | Create Form Design. QuickBooks walks you through the process of adding a logo and background, colors and fonts, and a grid style, and it lets you apply this same theme automatically to all of your forms. (You can modify your design similarly on the Basic Customization page, minus the wizard-like approach and the background options.)

Simple but Complicated

One more comment about the QuickBooks 2013 purchase order screen. Beyond making your formatting options available in the “ribbon,” it also moves you through purchasing to the receiving process. With the appropriate purchase order open, click Create Item Receipts in the ribbon. This window opens, with the correct vendor name selected. When you click in the Item field, this small window appears:


Figure 3: Click Yes here and select the correct PO, and QuickBooks fills in the data. If you check the Bill Received box, the Enter Bills window opens. 

QuickBooks’ purchasing and receiving tools makes your inventory-tracking job easier, but you still need to understand the workflow. We encourage you to let us work with you as you begin managing inventory – or to contact us if you’re tangled up in what can be a very challenging element of QuickBooks.

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More than 52 percent of businesses today are home-based. Every day, people are striking out and achieving economic and creative independence by turning their skills into dollars. Garages, basements and attics are being transformed into the corporate headquarters of the newest entrepreneurs – home-based businesspeople.

And, with technological advances in smartphones, tablets, and iPads as well as a rising demand for “service-oriented” businesses, the opportunities seem to be endless.

Is a Home-Based Business Right for You?

Choosing a home business is like choosing a spouse or partner: Think carefully before starting the business. Instead of plunging right in, take time to learn as much about the market for any product or service as you can. Before you invest any time, effort, and money take a few moments to answer the following questions:

  • Can you describe in detail the business you plan on establishing?
  • What will be your product or service?
  • Is there a demand for your product or service?
  • Can you identify the target market for your product or service?
  • Do you have the talent and expertise needed to compete successfully?

Before you dive head first into a home-based business, it’s essential that you know why you are doing it and how you will do it. To succeed, your business must be based on something greater than a desire to be your own boss: an honest assessment of your own personality, and understanding of what’s involved, and a lot of hard work. You have to be willing to plan ahead, and then make improvements and adjustments along the road. While there are no “best” or “right” reasons for starting a home-based business, it is vital to have a very clear idea of what you are getting into and why. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you a self-starter?
  • Can you stick to business if you’re working at home?
  • Do you have the necessary self-discipline to maintain schedules?
  • Can you deal with the isolation of working from home?

Working under the same roof that your family lives under may not prove to be as easy as it seems. It is important that you work in a professional environment; if at all possible, you should set up a separate office in your home. You must consider whether your home has the space for a business, and whether you can successfully run the business from your home.

Compliance with Laws and Regulations

A home-based business is subject to many of the same laws and regulations affecting other businesses and you will be responsible for complying with them. There are some general areas to watch out for, but be sure to consult an attorney and your state department of labor to find out which laws and regulations will affect your business.

Zoning

Be aware of your city’s zoning regulations. If your business operates in violation of them, you could be fined or closed down.

Restrictions on Certain Goods

Certain products may not be produced in the home. Most states outlaw home production of fireworks, drugs, poisons, sanitary or medical products, and toys. Some states also prohibit home-based businesses from making food, drink, or clothing.

Registration and Accounting Requirements

You may need the following:

  • Work certificate or a license from the state (your business’s name may also need to be registered with the state)
  • Sales tax number
  • Separate business telephone
  • Separate business bank account

If your business has employees, you are responsible for withholding income, social security, and Medicare taxes, as well as complying with minimum wage and employee health and safety laws.

Planning Techniques

Money fuels all businesses. With a little planning, you’ll find that you can avoid most financial difficulties. When drawing up a financial plan, don’t worry about using estimates. The process of thinking through these questions helps develop your business skills and leads to solid financial planning.

Estimating Start-Up Costs

To estimate your start-up costs, include all initial expenses such as fees, licenses, permits, telephone deposit, tools, office equipment and promotional expenses.

Business experts say you should not expect a profit for the first eight to 10 months, so be sure to give yourself enough of a cushion if you need it.

Projecting Operating Expenses

Include salaries, utilities, office supplies, loan payments, taxes, legal services and insurance premiums, and don’t forget to include your normal living expenses. Your business must not only meet its own needs, but make sure it meets yours as well.

Projecting Income

It is essential that you know how to estimate your sales on a daily and monthly basis. From the sales estimates, you can develop projected income statements, break-even points and cash-flow statements. Use your marketing research to estimate initial sales volume.

Determining Cash Flow

Working capital–not profits–pays your bills. Even though your assets may look great on the balance sheet, if your cash is tied up in receivables or equipment, your business is technically insolvent. In other words, you’re broke.

Make a list of all anticipated expenses and projected income for each week and month. If you see a cash-flow crisis developing, cut back on everything but the necessities.

If you think a home-based business is in your future, then don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’ll set up your business and make sure you have the proper documentation system in place to satisfy the IRS.

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