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3 accounting topics to focus on as 2018 comes to a close

The is almost over, so you are most likely closing out your books for the corporate income tax return and finalizing financial statements for the year. Accountants enjoy these details, accounting stuff and making sure that the books and records are nice and tidy. The resulting neat and completed year-end package is the pretty curb appeal but requires a lot of foundation building and organizing sourced documents. Below is a review of a few of the important year-end topics to help you with the final preparation of 2018 financial records.

Preparing for Annual Income Tax Return

To close out the year and prepare for the annual tax filing, you should organize accounting records to provide to your tax preparer. These documents will be used to prepare the return and ultimately substantiate income reported, deductions taken, etc. on the returns.  Reports from the accounting software are part of this support but are not the exclusive supporting records. Other accounting records typically used include:

  • Payroll tax filings (941’s, 940, W-3)
  • Bank reconciliations
  • Closing statements
  • Loan documents
  • Inventory valuation calculations
  • Sales tax filings
  • Organizational documents (operating agreements, ownership percentages.)  

In the event of an IRS audit the business will need paper or digital records to substantiate the reported figures claimed on the tax filing form.  Retaining receipts is very important to support business expenses, especially if the transaction was conducted using a credit card. The credit card statement itself will not provide adequate support.  

Mileage Log

Keep a business mileage log.  If you are using personal vehicles for business purposes this log will provide the basic support needed for the deduction. This log should include:

  • Beginning and ending year odometer reading
  • Beginning and ending odometer reading for each business trip
  • Date of business travel
  • Description of where you went for business

By keeping an accurate mileage log you are entitled to a deduction for those miles.  

Taxpayers may qualify to use the optional annual issued standard mileage rates for calculating deductible cost of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving expense purposes.  The 2018 standard business mileage rate is adjusted to 54.5 cents per mile. Unreimbursed employee travel expenses which are reported as a miscellaneous itemized deduction are suspended for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026.  The deduction for moving expenses are also suspended for the same taxable years. Activity duty members of the armed forces of the United States may qualify for an 18 cents per mile deduction.

A taxpayer may also elect to calculate the auto deduction using the actual expenses.  Adequate records will need to be maintained as documentary evidence to support the expenses claimed.  The mileage log will still be needed which will also assist with allocating these expenses to the business usage.  

Client and Prospect Business Meal Deductions

As of the date this article is prepared, the IRS has not issued proposed regulations on business meals deductions under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nor have they listed any new or changed standards.  The proposed regulations should provide details for what records will be needed for providing support. Meanwhile documentation should provide proof of payment and occurrence.

Maintain receipts to support business meals and entertainment expenses.  These receipts should include:

  • Date
  • Name of the restaurant (location)
  • Who was in attendance
  • Business purpose of the meal (ex. Lunch meeting to discuss timeline of tax preparation, etc.)

Often business expenses are overlooked when they are paid from personal funds. To help prevent this oversite, use one credit card exclusively for business purposes which will also support proof of payment.     

You may deduct 50 percent of your client and prospect business meals if the expense is:

  • Ordinary and necessary expense incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business
  • Not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances
  • The taxpayer, or an employee of the taxpayer, is present at the furnishing of the food or beverages
  • The food or beverages are provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant, or similar business contact
  • In the case of food and beverages provided during or at an entertainment activity, the food and beverages are purchased separately from the entertainment, or the cost of the food and beverages are stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices or receipts

Hopefully, these topics will assist you prepare for your 2018 income tax returns and be audit ready of if needed.

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Mistakes To Learn From

All business owners make mistakes. It is an unfortunate truth. After all, we’re only human! In certain industries, these mistakes can lead to serious consequences. It is the job of any good business owner to identify what these possible errors are, and avoid making them. Luckily, we have seen them all. Accountants and bookkeepers are very familiar with both extremes of running a business. We see everything from the totally unprepared, to the utterly flawless. In the midst of all of this, we have learned a thing or two.

 

Who You Gonna Call?

One of the most costly errors a business owner can make is overconfidence. Starting a business requires a great deal of dedication and knowledge. However, no one person is expected to know the intricacies of each aspect of business ownership. The wisest man knows that he knows not. It is important to swallow your pride (and cough up a few dollars) sometimes, and let someone who is trained handle the task. Every bookkeeper will tell you, starting new books isn’t difficult, but fixing old ones can be a nightmare. Hiring a subcontractor may seem like a major expense, but it is nothing compared to the damage control you will have to do if things go poorly doing it yourself.  

 

It’s Nothing Personal, Just Business

This cliche line has probably been uttered in a hundred different movies, but actually holds some merit. Something we see a lot, especially with new business owners, is that they often use their own personal funds to bolster their company. Owner investments are fine, they are a must. However, when it comes to using company money, things get a bit more complicated. Unfortunately, many business owners will use a company card for personal reasons, in lieu of taking draws.

This is costly for a couple reasons. First, it takes more time for your bookkeeper to sift through the transactions to find what is actually a business expense. Secondly, many say to themselves “I will pay it back”, and never do. Companies have been drained this way. Lastly, this sort of behavior, if paired with improper bookkeeping and poor records, can be a red flag for the IRS. And no one wants to audited. Business card. Personal card. Have two, keep them separate. 

 

Cash Is King

This one may seem obvious. The saying has been around for a while, yet people seem to forget it. There are so many ways to pay for goods and services now, that we often forget we need to have cash in the bank to back it all up with. In my bookkeeping years, I have seen companies pay thousands a year in bank overdraw fees. I have seen companies unable to make payroll because there are insufficient funds. I have seen owners buy things they don’t need, and spend far too long paying for it. The unfortunate truth is that many businesses operate at a loss for a while before they can start making money. However, you are only making money if it goes into the bank.

 

Organized Chaos

Let’s be honest, we aren’t as organized as we should be. Sometimes, we get lazy, and don’t put something back where we found it. This happens in business as well. We start off with the best intentions, and follow all the protocols, but after time complacency usually gets the best of us. Unfortunately, in the business world, this type of behavior can seriously hurt a company. It may start innocently enough, with little consequence, but over time it will bleed into the day-to-day functions, and efficiency of your work. Don’t let messy books, or a messy work space bring you down.

 

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s all common sense! Why would you make a post about that?” Well, when the number of times seeing these mistakes becomes too high to count, then maybe it’s time to address them. These are all easily solvable mistakes. Better than fixing them, is never making them at all. Hopefully this friendly reminder from your local accountants will help prevent them in the future!

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A Bookkeeper’s Tool

Bookkeeping always seems like a mysterious, dark art. It is never seen done in person, yet you give someone a bunch of transactions and receive a neat, orderly report in return. As confusing as it may seem from the outside, bookkeeping is very straight forward these days, with the help of some very useful programs. There are probably hundreds of bookkeeping programs available, each with their own pros and cons. At the Bean Team, we are QuickBooks fans.

So what can QuickBooks do that makes it so special, and universally used? The first, and arguably most important factor is usability. QuickBooks is marketed as a user friendly program. Which it certainly is, to a certain extent. The company that made the program is aptly named Intuit. And their programs are indeed, intuitive. Obviously, there is a learning curve, as with any program. But for most new users, they will find they are able to post invoices and deposits with very little  instruction. That being said, a basic understanding of bookkeeping goes a long way.

QuickBooks has also adapted a fair amount to the modern age. The program has been in circulation since the 90’s. Much has changed in the digital environment since that time. Intuit has done a very good job of keeping the iterations of QuickBooks modern, while still holding on to their more old fashioned customer base. It is a balancing act that many companies could learn from.

You see, while many of the basic functionality of the program has remained the same, new add ons, integrations, and internet linked features have been added to keep it up-to-date. These changes aren’t solely for appearance’s sake. With QuickBook’s success, has come a throng of followers that aim to create a shinier, more modern take of double entry accounting programs. And for the most part, they have succeeded. Web based bookkeeping programs like Xero, have taken many customers away from Intuit. Lured by a whole host of integrations, and streamlined bank feed downloads, many amateur bookkeepers have jumped ship.

While I, and many other bookkeepers, may concede that Xero is in fact easier to pick up and use, it is far less comprehensive than QuickBooks. Following a trail of transactions can be difficult, and often makes any form of forensic accounting painful. It lacks the tools, and ability to enable a bookkeeper to truly be in control of a company’s finances. If all you need is a place to download your bank feed, and assign them to an account, then Xero is perfect. 

When it comes down to it, QuickBooks is the most versatile. It can be used by many different skill levels, and is very in tune with what most accountants, bookkeepers, and business owners need when maintaining healthy books, no matter the industry. Obviously, it is important to do your research, and see what fits best with your business. Don’t blindly take my word for it. And no, I’m not getting paid by Intuit to plug their product, but if that is an option, I’m game. Really, I have used a hand full of accounting and bookkeeping programs, and always come back to QuickBooks as my go-to. Don’t get me wrong, it has its quirks like any other computer program, but at the end of the day it does the things I need it to, and without too much fuss.

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Streamline Your AP Process


The Accounts Payable process can be difficult to manage. Business owners will often complete one step of the process but forget to record it properly. Mistakes like this can result in accidentally over- or under-stating your expenses. When the process is poorly managed, bills can get misplaced, overlooked, or paid late. All of this reflects poorly on the business.

At the Bean Team, we believe very strongly in having an efficient AP process. With our system, there are fewer errors, quicker turn-around time, and everything is recorded and documented for future reference. Here is an example of what our process typically looks like:

  1. Bills from vendors come directly to us.
  2. We scan and save copies of each bill.
  3. Each bill is entered into QuickBooks.
  4. We get approval from the manager or business owner to pay the bill.
  5. We print a check using checks the business owner provides, or pay with an approved credit card.
  6. The bill is then marked as paid in QuickBooks.
  7. If a check is printed, it will be mailed straight from our office.

 

We also incorporate Bill.com into our workflow to further automate the AP process. With this web-based payables solution, managing your AP can be done with ease via a mobile app. We also can assist with setting up bills to be paid on an automatic schedule. This ensures that nothing will be paid late again.  

Most issues that arise related to the vendor will be handled by us, unless instructed otherwise, or if we do not possess the needed information. When we are the point of contact, the AP process can move more quickly. Constant back and forth between business owners and vendors can interrupt the flow of work, as well as cause friction between the two. Having an intermediary, like us, helps ensure good business relationships.

For any business, maintaining an effective AP process is a key to success – ask us about how to get started on streamlining your Accounts Payable today!

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outsourcing accounting

6 Benefits of Outsourcing Accounting


Providing Outsourced Accounting is one of many services we provide at the Bean Team. Complete outsourcing of accounting makes the most sense for business that don’t have enough accounting tasks to occupy 2 or more employees.

Here are 6 benefits of outsourcing accounting to a qualified firm:

  1. Save Time and Focus: By outsourcing, the business owner and management can focus on the operations of the business. They don’t spend time doing accounting tasks that they don’t like to do and are likely not qualified to do. The business owner saves the time and focusses on the business. You are good at your business, we are good at accounting.
  2. Save $: After taking into account the time you would save, the cost to outsource is typically less than an in-house solution, especially when cost of the business owner’s time is considered in managing or doing the accounting tasks. The Bean Team understands that time is money.
  3. Team vs. Individual: When you outsource, the work is done by a team of professionals ranging in skill sets from entry level accounting, up to a seasoned CFO or CPA. This allows a team approach to enable a system of tasks and cross training. The team completes the work on time even if one member is out or if a team member needs to be replaced. The outsourced model provides for a process based on a system instead of the knowledge being possessed by one person a defined skill set.
  4. Customized and Staffed Solution: Clients receive a customized solution that allocates the accounting tasks done by the firm and those tasks done by the client. The firm recruits, vets, hires, and manages the team to deliver the offered services. The client doesn’t need to do any of these HR or management tasks as it pertains to accounting tasks. The end result is less stress and  peace of mind for the client.
  5. Best-in-Class Systems: The outsourced solution offers the best people and the best systems. The outsourced firm tests, vets, purchases, and then rolls it out to clients in a way that spreads the cost and spreads the benefits to all. Systems that are online, mobile, secure, backed-up, and integrated are requirements in the systems used. Knowledgeable, qualified, and conscientious professionals.
  6. Scaled Solutions: The outsourced solution can scale up or down as accounting volume increases or decreases. Scaling can be done quickly without the need for the client to go through a recruiting process or laying off personnel. This is all done quickly and seamlessly by the outsourced firm.
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