Whether you’re an independent personal trainer, manage a team, own a studio or a franchise, cash is king! Let’s face it, if clients or members aren’t coming in the door, your doors wouldn’t be open. We love the fitness industry because we’re fitness nuts ourselves. On our days off you can find us in the gym or outside hiking or cycling. So naturally thought we would pair one of our passions with another here at iAccounting Solutions; help businesses plan and better manage their taxes and finances.

Income & Expenses

This may be a no brainer but we’ve met so many business owners that don’t do track their income and expenses. Here’s a little test: Can you tell me, within a few mouse clicks, what your net income was last month? If not, then you may want to consider upping your “tracking game” and here’s why.

Tracking your income and expenses is a major part of your cash in’s and out’s. Knowing what expenses are higher than normal, or if your revenue is on track, or not, can mean you’re working for nothing! You also get what I call “the magic number”, or Net Income. Net Income tells you how much profit your business is making and is a gauge for knowing how much tax you’re going to pay. For example, you “think” you’re making money because you have cash in the bank, but your Net Income is less than you think. Conversely, you may think you’re not going to pay tax on much at all but your Net Income could give you a higher bill.

Additionally, using software connected to your bank can make this process of tracking much easier. And if it’s easy, you’re more likely to do it! Revenue is not the only thing to be aware of. Expenses play a large role in whether or not your business is profitable. Having a report where you can look at all the revenue and expenses with a critical eye can be invaluable when you’re figuring out if you’re meeting your goals. This should be your first step in managing your cash flow.

Lastly, keep in mind that any loan payments do NOT affect Net Income. Instead, those payments are tracked on a different report called the Balance Sheet. More on loans later.

Profit Margins

If you’re tracking income and expenses then you can figure a very important thing: how hard you’re working for your money! Looking at your net income and cost of sales as a percentage are referred to as your “profit margins”. This is good measurement of how efficient your business is using its resources or charging for products and services. For example, a Cafe may have a 9% profit margin, which is really good for the industry. However, if you run a personal training business that number should be closer to 15%-20%. If you’re lower than what you should be then that means something isn’t right. It may mean you’re not charging enough, or it may mean you’re expenses in proportion to your income is too high. But if you know the number then you can start analyzing and drilling into the problem areas.

If you don’t have one, you should map out a “Profitability Formula” for your business.

If you don’t have one, you should map out a “Profitability Formula” for your business. That sounds complex but it’s really not. All it is is planning how much you’re going to charge vs. your costs to make sure your business is going to turn a profit.

Liabilities

Keeping your debts under control and knowing how much you owe is paramount to keep your business thriving. Not only cash flow wise but mentally. If you feel like you’re on a sinking ship and there’s no way out then you’re not going to be able to manage your cash effectively to “dig your self out”. One of the best ways that I’ve advised clients to get themselves out of debt it to do what I call “Skim the gross”. Skim the Gross means that you’re choosing one debt to focus on and you’re taking a certain percentage from your Gross Revenue and paying it towards your debt. You do this as soon as it enters your bank account. The idea is that if you take it off the top that you won’t miss it. It’s kind of like taxes being taken out of your paycheck, you don’t see them so you never miss them!

One of the best ways that I’ve advised clients to use to get themselves out of debt it to do what I call “Skim the gross”

Staff/Labor Costs

Perhaps one of the largest expenses we have as businesses is your Labor costs. It’s a no brainer that labor should always produce more than they require in cash but how do you measure and know if you’re getting enough out of your staff? One way is to figure out how much your staff costs are in relation to your revenue. This is often called Labor vs. Revenue ratio and is simply calculated by dividing your staff costs by your revenue and getting a percentage. That percentage should be in the 30% to 40% range for a healthy gym or personal training studio.

For example, let’s say your business’s Gross Revenue is $30,000 in one month. Your staff costs are $10,000, which works out to be 33%(10k/30k)–you’re within range. Let’s say the same example but your staff costs are $15,000. That’s 50%–that’s too high.

If you’re too high you need to focus on getting that number down to a reasonable range of 30%-40%. A few things to look at are your pricing for services, your staff pay rates, and also the market or neighborhood you’re in. All those come into play when determining if this is a healthy cost for your business.

Owner Pay

Unless you like working for free (I don’t know how does!) then you have to figure out how to pay your self for your blood, sweat, and tears that you’re putting into your business. Now the “how-to” of paying your self has a lot to do with what type of entity your business is–that’s a whole nother topic for a future blog post. However, when all is said and done you need to plan and budget your compensation into your profitability formula for your business. Whether it’s a salary, commission on sales, or hourly rate, plan and do it! If not, then it’s like you’re working for free and will most likely burn out and lose interest. If that happens, “adios” to your business!

Estimated Taxes

We all love taxes right?! I don’t know anyone that loves having the conversation at the end of the year where they learn they owe tax! A good way to manage this, and also sometimes required by the IRS, is to pay Estimated Taxes. In short, this is basically prepaying your tax liability for the upcoming year. This is a great way to manage your tax liability and not have a huge bill at the end of the year. Plus, when you attack your taxes proactively your whole mindset changes and something you used to fear goes away and you can devote more mental energy to positive things in your life.

There are different ways to do this but the simplest approach I’ve found is to again use the “Skim the Gross” method that I explained earlier. Skim some off the top of your Gross revenue and transfer into a savings account that is hard to access. That way you won’t be tempted to dip into it and you’ll have funds ready to make your quarterly payments.

when you attack your taxes proactively your whole mindset changes and something you used to fear goes away and you can devote more of your mental energy to positive things in your life.

 

Be Open to Change

While these all may sound great, it takes some planning and structure to succeed at mastering your cash flow. If you need a system, give us a shout. We’ve help clients with this all the time and have it down to an art and can help you make it easy.

Lastly, Be open to change so you can “roll with the punches”. Because the punches will come and you’re going to feel like giving up before you become successful–100% guaranteed! But don’t give up, make changes in your business to make it profitable, try new services, re-write your business plan after a year or two, you get the idea. Do-what-it-takes to get your business where you want it and throw some elbow grease into the mix. Everyone I’ve seen do this have met their goals and is getting what they want out of their business, which is Financial Freedom!

 

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Every business owner goes through the process of deciding how to hire someone when they get to the point where they’ve outgrown their current situation or just need a bit of extra help.  You’ve found the right candidate and now you need to decide whether or not to hire a contractor or employee…this is where you need to be very careful!

Watch out for the pitfalls

While your first inclination is to hire contractors to save paying FICA and Workers Comp, you should be aware of the rules that the IRS and state can nail you on.  Yes, there may be two sets of rules that you have to abide by!  We’ll explain each one, and since we live in California, the rules here as well.

What the IRS Looks For

The IRS is mainly looking at two factors; Control & Relationship.  Control is what it sounds like, do you have control over how your worker does their work and when they do it?  Do you determine how much you pay the worker?  If the answer is yes, then you most likely have an employee, not a contractor.

Under the Relationship test, does your relationship with your worker resemble an employee or contractor?  Are there written agreements, do you pay for benefits, do you reimburse your worker for expenses?  If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then you most likely have an employee.

Under the Control test, you give up when and how the worker perfoms the work. For example, you take your car to the mechanic for some work.  You walk in and the mechanic tells you how much it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take to do it.  Now you’re hoping it’s fast because you need to pick up the kids, but you can see what I’m getting at here.  You really don’t have any control over the mechanic in how and when they do their work.  In this case, we’re describing a contractor relationship.  

California

In California, we take it to another level! Oh, how we love the Golden State! New legislation for 2019 enacted more rules for determining contractor status.  (Even if you’re not in California you might as well take heed as I’m sure states will soon follow California’s lead)

California gives you the “ABC” test to help you determine whether or not you have a contractor or employee relationship:

A – Control

This refers to whether or not the worker is free from the control of your business in connection with their performance of the work. Thus, if you are telling the worker when and how to do their job then you are probably going to fail this test.

B – Business

Additionally, the worker should be performing work that is outside the normal course of your business.

C – Customarily Engaged

In connection with A & B, the workers must be engaged in an established trade or business of the same nature as the work performed.

Summing up California

Photo by Vital Sinkevich on Unsplash

As you’re now most likely thinking about what this means for your business, these new rules rule out a lot of what has gone unchecked for many years–hiring just anyone to get around payroll taxes and workers comp insurance. To illustrate, here are a few examples:

Example 1: You run a personal training studio and hire other personal trainers to come in and run training sessions. That’s an employee.

Example 2: You’re a physician in private practice and you hire office staff. This is an employee because they will most likely fall under the “Control” test.

Example 3: You’re a church and you hire a consultant to help you with leadership and other efficiencies. That’s a contractor.

Example 4: You’re a real estate agent and hire a transaction coordinator to help you move all your listing and sales through the administrative pipeline. But they work from home and you don’t dictate their schedule. You can most likely get away with hiring them as a contractor.

These rules can be tricky…no matter what state you live in

The worst thing for you to do is to guess at these rules. Feel free to reach out or comment if you find yourself stuck and caught in the web of employee vs. contractor rules!

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We love the holidays and the season of gifts, getting together with family and friends and frankly just kicking back.  But as you un-plug for a few weeks this is a great time to think about the new year and making positive changes for your business.  Here’s our top tips for changes you can make to start the new year off on the right foot.

Utilize Technology To Automate

Find your self doing the same tasks over and over again?  Look into automating those with tools like Zapier and others.  I’m not saying to take the human out of where it counts, but updating email lists etc. doens’t require a human touch.  When you’re able to reassign tedious tasks you can spend more time on meaninful activities.  For example, if you send out a MailChimp email to your client based on an action by them, why not use Zapier to automate that, plus update your MailChimp list at the same time.  Really, the possibilities are endless.

Setup A Budget

Creating a budget is the first step in planning to make sure you meet goals.  Setting up thresholds and goals will help you measure your progress throughout the year.  It can even be easily done in your accounting softwar like Xero or QuickBooks Online.

Beyond tracking the income and expenses, it forces you to think about what you plan to do and set goals.  That act is alone is a lot more than what a lot of business owners do!  easily take, forgranted–it has a throughout positive effect on how you treat your business.

Implement Some Tax Planning

Now, you have probably heard lots about taxes this past year and rightfully so, 2018 has seen some of the most extensive tax reform laws in decades!  Knowing why they mean and translate for you in your business is no small feat but that doesn’t mean you should keep your head in the sand.  Planning now can save you tons of tax if you play your cards right.   For example, IRS section 199 outlines hefty tax savings for small business owners under a certain income threshold.  This translates into huge tax savings for a lot of businesses.  

Fortunately for you, if you’re reading this blog you’re in the right place to get help if you don’t understand or know how to apply it to you.  There are also tons more opportunities to save tax so it may be worth your while to schedule some time with your tax planning expert.  Or, give us a call if you don’t have one.

Get Your Books In Order

I call ‘net income’ the magic tax number because it’s what drives most of the tax liability when you operate a business.  But you’re never going to know what that is unless you keep good records of your income and expenses.  Let’s face the hard truth, the days of paper and spreadsheets for tracking this should be over.  Online accounting software like Xero is so easy to use and so cheap that it’s a no-brainer.  Plus, using something like Xero is a great way to get ALL of your business on one place for invoicing, bills, document storage, etc.

Level Your Business Up

During this time when you’re taking some time off or away from the desk think about waysin you can make small changes to improve the quality of life.  Think in terms of plenty  and ditch the scarcity mindset.  When you do you’ll see big changes at how you handle stress and how you visualize success.  For example take implementing a CRM like Active Campaign or Hubspot costs a monthly fee, but did you think about how much time you can save with automation and how you can better serve your customers by having a system in place to put them in?

When you’re able to spend a little you make big gains in your mentality for growth.  Remember, unless you invest and work on your business there is huge rewards.

In closing I hope you’re able to use some or all of these points to have successful new year going into 2019!  Don’t forget, growing your business is like steering a large ship, you do it with small course corrections and in time you will get where you want to go!

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Whether you’re just starting your journey in real estate or a seasoned veteran, you’ll want to continue reading for some valuable tips to help you control your money and not let your money control you!

Planning around commissions

Its feast or famine for a lot of agents starting out.  Or, if you’ve been around for awhile and have a steady pipeline of listings then your income may be more steady.  Either way, you need to plan and budget around your commissions.

One of the best ways we’ve helped agents do this is by following the 80/20 rule.  The rule is simple: take 20% right off the top of your commissions and use the rest for business expenses and to pay yourself.  If you save 20% of your income then you’ll have a decent chunk set aside for taxes and anything unexpected that comes up.  Just remember, taxes can be the #1 expense for the real estate professional so do some planning ahead of time.

Taxes can be the #1 expense for the real estate professional so do some planning ahead of time!

The next step in the process is to follow a 3-month rolling budget.  We know the commissions don’t happen every month when you’re first starting out.  And some months you may be “feasting” while others are a “famine”.  But over the course of 3 months, you should be able to have a good idea of what your income and expenses are.  Setting up a budget can be as simple as using a spreadsheet, or our preferred method is to use easy to use financial software like Xero.

Check out how easy it is to setup and use a budget in Xero:

Budgeting With Xero

 

Following Up and Being Held Accountable

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Got to your favorite coffee shop to plan your budget

Following a budget means nothing if you don’t ever review it!  If you’re going to be successful at controlling your money then you have to review and look at your actual and budgeted income and expenses.  We’ve seen professionals be the most successful at this when they have an outside person holding them accountable to their plan.  Or, if you don’t want someone else helping, you should calendar a time and place (preferable somewhere different from where you normally work!) and stick to your budget review appointment.  Remember, if you don’t treat it like a normal business meeting, it probably won’t happen!  We like to mix food and drink in this meeting–that seems to always make something that can be grueling a bit more exciting.

 

There’s no time like the present

Decide to take control now by following these simple steps:

  1. Gather your bank statements for the past 3 months so you can see how much you made and spent
  2. Tally up all your income, and then expenses into categories or “buckets” so you know where your money was spent
  3. Setup a spreadsheet or budget in finance software.  Set realistic goals in your budget so that you can acheive your budget goals.
  4. Record your business income and expenses from setting up your budget and see how you did for the past 3 months.
  5. Record your income and expenses often and review every 3 months.  Setup a calendar event and stick to your meeting.
  6. Adjust your budget as necessary for changing costs like advertising, staging, open houses, etc.

If you follow those steps then you’re well on your way to being in control of your finances.

 

We’ve worked with many real estate professionals so we know what works, and what doesn’t.  Feel free to reach out, we’re happy to answer simple questions and be a resource for you.  Here’s to your financial freedom and listing lots of properties!

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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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Going through an IRS Audit can be a big deal if you’re not prepared.  But with today’s technology, we’re going to show you an easy way to make sure you have all the documentation you need to prove your business expenses.  I’m not saying that all audits are the same, but most of the ones we’ve helped clients through ask for substantiation, or proof, of certain expenses that you’re claiming on your tax return.  If you can’t provide adequate records and prove the business purpose, then the IRS could disallow those expenses—and you don’t want that!

 

Use Technology

We spend lots of time vetting out new technologies to find the ones that work well, and the ones that don’t.  Part of this process is actually using the apps, and analyzing a few things: 1. How easy is it to use and 2. Does it work well with a general small business work process?  Our favorite app for retaining information is Evernote.  If you’ve never heard of Evernote (that would be surprising), we recommend checking them out on the web.  We’re going to show how to use Evernote to audit-proof your business.

 

Introduction to Evernote

Evernote is a like a central hub for all data you want to put into it.  For me, I use it like an external hard drive for my brain!  The power of Evernote lies within it being accessible on every device you own, easy to get information into it, and easy to find the information later when you need it.  For the purpose of this post, we’re going to cover:

  • Using your mobile device to scan receipts
  • Organizing into Notebooks
  • Using tags
  • Using other services to connect to Evernote

 

Overview

To audit proof your business you need to track key elements about your expenses.

  • Date you purchased
  • Amount
  • Who you purchased from
  • Business purpose

Most of the time a receipt covers all that quite nicely.  The only thing you should add is Business Purpose (which we’re going to show you).  You should also keep bank/credit statements, and even cleared checks.

 

Using Evernote to Achieve Audit Protection Bliss

At the very basic level, Evernote is structured as Notebooks and Notes that live within those Notebooks.  You can also use Tags to help you organize and search easier.

Keep Receipts

Step 1: Create a Notebook called Receipts

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Step 2: Use the mobile app to snap scans of your receipts as you make purchases

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Notice that the Notebooks is “Receipts” and we’re using a tag called “office supplies” so that we can easily search for office supplies.  Also, you’ll notice we put the business purpose as the name of the note.  You can do this on your computer, or on your mobile device.

Step 3: Do the same process for every receipt you get.  Evernote will become your repository for all your receipts.  You can easily search for your receipts by tag if you want to see all of your Office Supply receipts.

Keep Bank Statements

After using Evernote you’re going to find more useful ways to use it in your everyday life.  One key feature is being able to keep and store attachments in notes.  Now, downloading your bank statements and putting them in Evernote is not that hard, but it’s also not that convenient.  Remember we said that one of the key features to apps we use is convenience?

The solution to this is to use an Evernote Marketplace app called File This.  File This is simply an app that will automatically retrieve your bank, credit card, utility statements, and put them where you tell it.  While it will export directly to popular cloud-based file sharing apps like Google Drive & Dropbox, you can also connect it to Evernote.

Once you have it File This connected to Evernote, your bank statements will automatically appear in the designated Notebook within Evernote.  File This is pretty robust and even has a free version for you to get started on.

 

Start Scanning!

Scanning your receipts and storing bank statements within Evernote will start you down the path of preparedness if the IRS decides to “knock on your door”.  Of course, in order for this system to work you have to be committed and adopt it as a workflow/system you use in your day to day life.  We use this system, we have clients using this system, and we can tell you that with a bit of discipline, it works!

Want to learn more about Evernote?  I’m an Evernote Certified Consultant so drop us a line and we’ll help you figure which version is best for you, and discuss how you can use it in your business.

Here are some useful links where you can sign up for free trials:

Evernote Basic

Evernote Plus

Evernote Premium

Evernote Business

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App PowerPack Post

Unless you’ve been under a rock the past 5 years, I’m sure you’ve noticed the era of cloud-based apps has far outpaced its desktop counterparts.  We like cloud-based apps a lot—for good reasons that are too many to go into here.  You can check out this BLOG POST  to see a previous post about cloud-based apps. We like them so much that we’ve completely transitioned our business to using cloud apps for us and our clients.  We spend lots of time vetting out the ever growing list of cloud-based apps, and have come to rely on 3 core apps.  These apps are our top pick to make our “PowerPack” of apps that we set up with each client.

  xeroXero – Accounting

Xero touts itself as “beautiful accounting software”, and we agree.  From the first time you log in, you can tell right away that Xero has taken design pretty serious.  But that doesn’t mean that it lacks in power and functionality.  Features include: invoicing, quotes, purchase orders, A/P (bills), document management, real-time cash flow tools, contact management, powerful reporting, and much more.  Perhaps one of it’s best features is the eco-system of software add-on’s that integrate with Xero.

hubdoc_logo_full  Hubdoc – Receipt and Statement Management

Trust us, we know how daunting it is to manage all the paper for running a business!  Hubdoc solves this issue with automation and storage.  The idea behind the system is:

  1. To be a repository for your bank and utility statements by connecting to your online accounts and pulling the statements automatically
  2. To serve as an easy way to get the information from receipts, into your accounting system.  Simply snap a pic of any receipt using the mobile app on your device, and Hubdoc will read the date, amount, and vendor.

 

By integrating with Xero, Bill.com, and Google Drive, you can have a completely paperless system that allows you to automatically keep bank, utility statements, and store digital copies of your receipts.

 

 

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Expensify – Expense Reports and Mileage Tracking

Expensify has revolutionized the way you track and submit expenses for reimbursement.  From single to a team of several employees, expense reports for mileage, personal expenses, and travel can easily be imported into Xero and even reimbursed via ACH straight from within the app.  For most of our single-owner businesses, it works perfectly for keeping track of money you spend on personal accounts.  Enabling GPS on their mobile app makes it a breeze to track your auto mileage as well.

 

 

Want to know more about these “Power Hitter” apps?  Leave a comment or reach out to see how they can benefit your business and even get them for free as part of one of our monthly service plans.

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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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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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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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