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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Whether you you have 1 or 30 employees, payroll is often synonymous with big costs and lots of headaches.  And rightfully so.  For a small business, payroll is often the #1 expense, and if you’ve ever tried to run and file payroll returns your self, you know how complex it can be.

In the last few years a new breed of cloud-based payroll companies have emerged into the small business services market.  Not only do they cater to the small business, but they make it easy for a small business owner to run their own payroll.  Here are some features that we like, and that can benefit your small business:

Cloud (Internet) based software

Since these services are cloud based, they’re accessible from any computer with an internet connection.  They also follow the “Software as a Service”, or “SaaS’ model.  Which means you pay a monthly fee for access to the software, with no IT or other software costs to you.

Direct Integration With Your Accounting Software

A good majority of them integrate with some of our favorite cloud-based accounting systems like Xero & QuickBooks Online.  This means that every time you run payroll, the entries are automatically entered into your books with no complicated manual entries required.

Time and Attendance that Integrates Directly with Your Payroll

Along side cloud payroll, are time and attendance solutions that integrate directly to your payroll AND your accounting software.  Again, this saves you tons of time with calculating hours, and inputting onto a time sheet.  Approving hours and paying your employees is often just a few mouse clicks.

One Cost for Everything

Cloud-based payroll systems have cut and dry pricing.  One fee per month, for unlimited pay runs and no extra hidden charges.  Some of the big players, charge you per each pay run, charge you for quarterly returns, and even W-2’s at the end of the year.

Direct Deposit and Online Pay Stubs

Direct deposit means that you don’t have to spend hours cutting checks for your employees.  And often, cloud payroll services give each employee their own access to view and print their own pay stubs.

Collaboration With Your Accountant

Not only is cloud payroll easily accessible, but it’s also easily shared with your accountant.  This allows for quick, and easy help when you need it.

 

Cloud payroll services may not be the best fit for everyone, but for most small businesses, they offer what you need at a fraction of the cost of some of the big players.  Here at iAccounting Solutions, we’re experts in cloud payroll services.  Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions, or need some advice on which service to choose.

 

 

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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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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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Although Intuit did a great job of giving QuickBooks’ home page a fresher, more “open” look in its 2013 versions, maybe some of your screens have become unnecessarily cluttered. Perhaps your QuickBooks company file needs some attention as well. By taking a few minutes to do some “spring cleaning” you’ll have a tidier workspace, and you’ll save time and frustration. The following suggestions will help you to do just that.

Make a Clean Start

One simple way to take care of cluttered screens is to do the following:

  • Minimize icons. That pretty graphical process map on the home page is great for quick access to frequently-used actions. Some of them must remain there if they’re related to activities you do (i.e., Invoices has to stay if you use Estimates), but you can remove some of the ones you don’t use. Go to Preferences | Desktop View | Company Preferences. You’ll see this:


Figure 1: You can turn off some of the feature icons on your home page.

Some of the options have been grayed out because they support other processes. To remove an active feature icon like Inventory, click on it. In the window that opens, uncheck the box next to Inventory and purchase orders are active (you can also modify options here).


Figure 2: Clicking the checkbox next to Inventory and purchase orders are active grays out the other options and removed related feature icons from the home page.

To reduce the number of feature icons even more, go to the Finance Charge, Jobs & Estimates, Payroll & Employees, Sales & Customers, Sales Tax and Time & Expenses. QuickBooks removes the related icons and reroutes the process map on the home page.

More Time-Saving Tweaks

  • Don’t allow multiple windows to open in your work area. Tired of seeing all of those overlapping open windows on your desktop? Open the View menu and select One Window. All of your open windows remain active in the background. To return to one of them, open the Window menu and select the one you want to move to the front (Window | Close All returns you to a blank work area).


Figure 3: Your Icon bar can be your fastest route to often needed screens–if you modify it to only contain the functions you use, in order of importance. You can also change the labels to make them more meaningful to you.

    • Trim down your icon bar. Seems like a minimal change, but it’s one of those things that can add unnecessary moments of frustration throughout the day (“Where’s the Calendar!”). Click View | Customize Icon Bar.

 

  • Customize columns in Lists. You probably work in QuickBooks’ Lists often, but are you spending too much time tracking down the right information? Customize their columns so your registers contain only what you usually need (and add additional ones if it’s helpful). Open a list, right-click anywhere within it and select Customize Columns to modify the display (re-size column widths by placing your cursor on the vertical set of dots between labels and dragging).


Figure 4: When you customize your columns in Lists, you’ll find what you’re looking for faster. 

  • Hide inactive items. Highlight an item, right-click and select Make Item Inactive. Open the Item menu in the lower left and click Hide Inactive Items (this action won’t delete them).

Internal Cleaning

These may all seem like cosmetic changes, but you will save time and frustration over the long run.

The most critical spring cleaning task is company file analysis and maintenance. We can handle this for you. QuickBooks can slow down and start generating error messages when the data file becomes unwieldy and sloppy. Preventing file corruption before it crashes your system is a lot faster and less expensive than a reconstruction project.

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