Category Archives: Accounting

Another Way to Protect your Data

There’s no end of articles out there telling you how to protect your data. Having strong passwords is obvious. But think about employees and independent contractors that have access to your online data.

When is the last time you reviewed who has access to your online accounts? People move on, and task assignments change. People who work for you should only have access to the data they need in order to do their job. No more, no less.

Invest the time to review and update who has access to your online accounts on a regular basis. While you’re at it, change those passwords too. Doing so could reduce your risk of damage to your finances and reputation.

Here’s a list of places to start:

*Accounting Software
*Online Banking
*Employee Benefits
*Credit cards (online access and physical cards)
*Sites you purchase from online
*Twitter
*Facebook
*LinkedIn
*HootSuite
*SproutSocial
*WordPress
*Newsletter software (MailChimp, Constant Contact)
*Online document sharing (Dropbox, GoogleDocs)

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Save Money By Filing Your Tax Return on Time

Tax day approaches. For individuals and businesses who follow the calendar year, your tax return is due by April 15, 2015. It is true you can request an extension to delay filing your taxes. Here’s why you should file your tax return by April 15:

File Your Taxes Now and Know What Changes to Make This Year

The sooner you file your tax return, the sooner you will know whether you owe taxes or will receive a refund. Filing your tax return sooner than later gives you the opportunity to start planning for the 2015 tax year by learning from what you did right or wrong for 2014. Did you pay the correct amount of estimated tax payments? What about contributing to a retirement account? Did you keep receipts for all the expenses you should have? When you request an extension, most of the next year is gone, and you lose the opportunity for tax planning and correcting things you did wrong last year.

Get Prepared, Then Meet with a Tax Professional

I recommend you have a tax professional prepare your personal and business tax returns. Partnering with the right tax professional will ensure you take advantage of tax deductions and credits to your advantage. To help you answer some of your questions and build a list to ask your tax professional, I recommend two resources:

J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2015 by Barbara Weltman – This book discusses everything from choosing your business entity, handling income and losses, expenses, home office deduction, tax planning tips, and much more. Use this book as a reference year round to answer your quick tax questions.

Small Business Taxes Made Easy by Eva Rosenberg – You should read this book cover to cover. The author starts with the basics of starting a business, choosing an entity, business plans, income and deductions, pitfalls to avoid, and much more. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and shares her years of tax experience throughout the book, including downloadable book updates, checklists, and resource lists.

To make the most of your meeting with your tax professional, you need to have up to date accounting records, namely a balance sheet and income statements. Financial statements help you make timely business decisions. They also help your tax professional quickly get an overview of your company in order to provide the right tax advice for your situation.

So stop procrastinating and start gathering what you need to get those tax returns done. If your accounting records are in a bit of a mess, I can fix your accounting. Just get in touch.

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Are you a victim of fraud?

I have had the misfortune on several occasions to speak with business owners who were victims of fraud. Fraud can destroy your business by the way of ruined relationships and cash flow problems that force you into bankruptcy.

Regardless of the size of your business, you don’t have to spend a lot of time and money to reduce your exposure to fraud. Simply put, set boundaries and hold the people who work for you (or otherwise represent you) accountable. Some see these accountability measures as an accusation. (You don’t trust me! or But we’re all friends!) I call them protection. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify.” Accounting is about financial responsibility and transparency.

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Stress and the value of time

As I write this, the holiday season is in full swing. Anyone with a product or service to sell is marketing like crazy. Just take a look at your postal mailbox and your email for proof. It takes extra effort just to sort through all that for what you need. Along with the day-to-day activity of running your business there are the year-end things to think about; estimated tax payments, retirement account contributions, health insurance, getting your books up to date, etc. Add to that holiday preparations; travel, decorating, shopping, baking, etc. Overwhelmed? The more overwhelmed we are, the less productive we are because we lose focus. The less productive we are, the more stressed we become.

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What is Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV)?

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa. What is it and how will it affect you and your business?

U.S. banks will be switching to this new type of credit card by October of 2015. All cards will be equipped with a super-small computer chip that is extremely hard to counterfeit. Europe already has this technology in use in an effort to combat fraud. According to current statistics, the U.S. is currently the capital of credit-card fraud. Here is a link explaining the vulnerability of the U.S. to credit fraud that may help you understand the advantage of the new computer chip technology vs. the old magnetic strip technology:  – http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-12-23/why-the-u-dot-s-dot-leaves-its-credit-card-system-vulnerable-to-fraud

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Improving your Collections Chances!

I recently had an unfortunate experience with collecting payment from a client.  I would like to share some information with you so that you will, hopefully, not have to go through this as well…

I had an unresolved invoice from a client and after many attempts on my part to collect the debt, I had to turn to a collection agency.  This is not an avenue that any business owner relishes, however, I was able to receive some sound advice through the generosity of the collections agency. It was suggested to me that I add a “Personal Guaranty” to my standard business agreement. They even provided me with the proper verbiage!  I would love to share this with you so that you may also take advantage of the great advice that I received.

PERSONAL GUARANTY

In consideration of [COMPANY NAME] its subsidiaries or affiliates, extending credit, I/we jointly and severally do personally guarantee unconditionally, at all times, to [COMPANY NAME], its subsidiaries or affiliates, the payment of indebtedness or balance of indebtedness of the within named firm. I understand that this could include remedies up to and including reporting on my personal credit and responsibility for any and all collection or attorney fees associated with the recovery of any past due balances.

 

By adding the “Personal Guaranty” to your service contract, you may increase your chances of being able to collect if you should find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having an “noncollectable” account!!

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The Accounting Puzzle

For the first time in years, I bought a jigsaw puzzle to put together. While some see it as a tedious, frustrating task, I found the process of assembling the puzzle very satisfying and somewhat relaxing. Sort of like accounting. What some see as pointless and frustrating I find satisfaction in assembling the puzzle of your financial records. At least most of the time.

photo-1While a jigsaw puzzle may contain 500 pieces to assemble, your business systems (email, marketing, accounting, etc) does not necessarily need to contain that many pieces. Adding complexity to the way you do business makes it that much harder for customers to do business with you and prevents you from really knowing the financial health of your business. This complexity will also cost you in extra time and effort to maintain complex systems.

Do you really need 50 product/service names for the 15 products or services you sell?  No, because too many choices likely means the customer chooses nothing.

Do you really need an income account for every product or service you sell? No, because consistency in recording transactions becomes almost impossible and your financial reports impossible to gain usable financial insight about your business.

On the flip side, do you really need an expense account for every conceivable type of expense your business has? Again, no. Too much detail makes it almost impossible to be consistent in recording your financial transactions.

Unlike a jigsaw puzzle that contains upwards of 500 pieces, you can choose to keep your business model (and the accompanying business systems) as simple as possible. Keep it simple is the best advice I can give to any business. Life has its own way of adding pieces to the puzzle of our businesses without us adding to it.

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How to Protect Your Debit Card

The debit card hacking debacle at Target was unraveling as I was traveling across country to visit family for the holidays. Being so far from home, canceling my debit card was not really an option. During a phone call with my bank I learned a lot about how to protect my debit card.

Most banks allow you to change the pin for your debit card by calling the number on the back of the card and using their automated system. It’s a good idea to do this periodically and takes only a few minutes.

Your bank will automatically set a daily spending limit on debit purchases. Not only was I not aware this limit existed, I was shocked to see how high my bank set this limit on my behalf. Call your bank to set this limit to match your spending habits. That way if your card is hacked, you can limit the damage.

Just as there is a daily debit purchase limit, there is an ATM withdrawal limit that is separate from the limits set by the ATM machines. Again, I was surprised to see how high the bank set that limit. When you call your bank to change the daily debit purchase limit, change this one as well.

And don’t forget about your online banking password. When is the last time you changed it? I know, it’s another password to remember but it’s for your own protection. And while you are at it, if you have the option of choosing different security questions, do that as well.

Finally, log in several times a week to review your transactions and immediately contact your bank regarding any questionable transactions, no matter the dollar amount.

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When to Set Up Accounting Software For Your Business

ID-10058688I am often asked when a business owner should set up accounting software for their new business. The short answer: the moment you decide to start a business.

The moment you decide to start a business you start incurring expenses; web domains, business licensing, logo design, product development, legal fees, etc. These start-up expenses must be tracked not only to get all those deductions on your tax return, but to know the financial facts about your new business.

Xero cloud accounting software has partner editions available for as little as $9 per month for start-up businesses. As your business grows there are subscription levels to grow with you. This also allows you to stay with the same software as your business grows and avoids the additional expense of converting to new software. Once you know how to use the software, your learning curve is limited to learning features newly added to the software or just now becoming important to your business.

Here’s something else to consider. The sooner you set up accounting software for your business, the sooner you build the habit of tracking income and expenses as well as building a budget and learning to read your financial statements.

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Budget is not a bad word

Just say the word “budget” and people change the subject. Their eyes glaze over.

Budgets are useful for personal and business purposes and don’t have to be some giant detailed document that rules your life. It’s a guide; a plan; and it’s certainly not cast in stone. A budget reflects what you think/hope/want to happen. It can help you make decisions – whether to spend or not your money, look for another or additional job, or raise your prices.

Let’s create a quick budget. Grab a piece of paper.

Write down all your fixed expenses for the month. Examples would be rent, insurance, utilities, software subscriptions, loan payments, etc. Include amounts put aside for equipment purchases and taxes.

Now write down your best estimate for your variable monthly costs. These would be merchant and/or bank fees, independent contractor fees, continuing education, office supplies, salaries and travel expenses.

Total up all those numbers you just wrote down. That’s your “break even” point; how much you have to sell just to keep the doors open. Now add in how much the business should be paying you each month (if not already added in above).

If nothing else, just writing down a quick budget like this can quickly streamline and prioritize your to do list.

Take a look at your accounting software to see if it has a budget feature. If it does, enter the numbers from the budget you just created. This will allow you to run budget versus actual income statements which can be very helpful. And don’t be afraid to change your budget. It’s a tool, not a ball and chain.

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