As an entrepreneur, good bookkeeping should be a priority when running your business.
What should entrepreneurs know about bookkeeping? Are there simple tips on proper bookkeeping that business owners can follow?
This article covers the best practices for bookkeeping for entrepreneurs.
Bookkeeping for entrepreneurs: A basic guide
1. Choose a business model
Before having your first books, as an entrepreneur, you should register your business and select a suitable business model that fits your needs. Depending on what you choose, the requirements for filing tax may be different and you don’t want to mess around by being ignorant. Many entrepreneurs start off as the only owners of their companies. Apart from the easy registration procedure, sole proprietorship also allows them to pay business taxes as part of their personal income tax. For those who would like a clear boundary between them and their business to avoid the risk of company debts, a limited liability company or a corporation can provide better legal protection.
Although in these cases, separate tax filing tends to be a complicated process which makes bookkeeping more demanding with multiple financial documents to prepare, the tax benefits that they offer, including lower tax rates, are among the reasons for their popularity with entrepreneurs.
2. Adopt a suitable accounting and bookkeeping method
For aspiring entrepreneurs who are new to managing finances, taking on accounting and bookkeeping is quite a problematic quest, even to the bravest of all. They need a reliable map that guides them through this adventure. In other words, we can say that finding out an exemplary method for each task and being consistent with it is highly important. When it comes to accounting, there are two options to choose from:
- Cash-basis accounting: To put it simply, under the cash accounting method, you record what you receive and pay right at the moment the money exchange occurs. It is quite straightforward, so even beginners can try this method to keep track of their business revenue and expenses.
- Accrual-basis accounting: The timing of recognizing revenue and expenses in the accrual accounting method is not as immediate as in cash basis accounting. It documents revenue and expenses when transactions occur even if cash hasn’t been paid out yet. Since accounting for items such as unearned revenue and prepaid expenses is involved, many entrepreneurs find the accrual method helpful in providing an accurate portrait of a company’s profitability in the long term.
After deciding on an accounting system to stick to, you will also need to ensure you are doing proper bookkeeping. Tracking all business transactions by keeping every receipt and invoice in order is not easy work. But without it, you won’t be able to see the income and expenses of your business, let alone make informed decisions on financial matters. Most solo entrepreneurs may have the first-hand experience of becoming their own bookkeepers, and that’s certainly beneficial in several ways when the business owners acquire some bookkeeping knowledge. However, as their business grows and the bookkeeping workload increases, at some point, they won’t be able to manage it by themselves.
The best possible option would be to have a full-time bookkeeper. Hiring a part-timer may cut down some fees, but nothing compares to having someone dedicated to the job and who knows your business. If you wish to integrate technology into accounting, it’s a good time to opt for a cloud-based solution. With a variety of accounting services available nowadays that help you to manage bookkeeping online by, for example, linking to your business bank account, you can save so much time on tracking transactions.
3. Track your expenses
One of the basics of bookkeeping is to track all business expenses. It involves developing a filing system for your receipts and financial documents, ranging from tax returns, bank and credit card statements, office bills (utilities, internet, phones, supplies, etc.) to receipts from travel, travel, and business meals. Keeping all that paperwork in place, either by storing its physical or digital copies takes a lot of effort as it is piling up every day. It will be too late to start preparing these records only when the tax season comes near. So ideally, you should organize everything regularly.
4. Monitor payment
As there are many payment options to meet the demand of both payers and payees, entrepreneurs need to develop flexible tracking methods to maintain good bookkeeping. If you are just used to paying by checks and cash and accepting paper receipts, you may need to consider other payment ideas to broaden your clients’ choices.
Credit card and debit card payments are becoming the norm, and we are also increasingly familiar with online payment. Managing all transactions manually will no longer suffice in this digital era, so businesses everywhere are going paperless and automating their bookkeeping process.
5. Know your tax obligations
As mentioned in the first section, tax requirements for each type of business vary based on how you register it. In fact, tax obligations also depend on other factors, such as different state regulations and characteristics of specific industries. Here are some typical taxes that most entrepreneurs will need to cover:
- Self-employment tax: If you start out as your own boss, this tax is obligatory because you will need it to pay your medicare and social security fees.
- Employment tax: Once you become an employer, you are responsible for covering your employees’ Medicare and social security expenses through your contribution to employment tax.
- Income tax: You can file your business tax as part of your personal income taxes if your company is a sole proprietorship. For complex entities like a corporation, business income tax is filed separately. A limited liability company provides an in-between option where you can choose to pay taxes either as your own or as a business cost.
- Sales tax: To collect the accurate amount of sales tax and submit it to the government, you need to refer to how your state of location regulates it. As a rule, sales tax is charged to the end-user of a good or service, so if your business is only part of the manufacturing chain, make sure to obtain a resale certificate to avoid paying the sales tax.
Why is bookkeeping for entrepreneurs important?
1. To manage budgets
Bookkeeping lets you know where and how much money is coming into or going out of your business. By keeping records of revenue and expenses, entrepreneurs can understand the financial situation of their business and look for ways to improve its overall performance. Specifically, business owners can evaluate how efficiently budgets are allocated at that moment based on past records, invest more in activities that are working well and make necessary changes to those that are not as profitable. Managing budgets and financial planning becomes easier when you have a functional accounting and bookkeeping system in place.
2. To prepare better financial reports
No one can underestimate the importance of financial statements in the business field. Accurate reports can tell your company’s financial health and play a crucial role in the decision-making process that dramatically impacts its growth. If there is a key to creating good reports, it must be the accuracy and reliability of the input data. This is when bookkeeping comes into play as its records contain precious raw data, which is then consolidated and analyzed in financial reports. Entrepreneurs will have to work with the following documents frequently, and even when they are not always supposed to write such statements, they must know how these are created and what bookkeeping records they use.
- Income statement: The income statement reports the revenue and expenses of a business over a period of time, based on which you can see whether the company is making a profit or how much loss it is generating.
- Balance sheet: The balance sheet shows details about a business’s assets, liabilities, and equity at a specific time. You will need this report to know whether what your company owns and owes are on balance.
- Cash flow statement: A cash flow statement gives you information about the cash and cash equivalents coming into and going out of your business. The cash flow may fluctuate daily, so it requires constant updates on everyday transactions.
3. To get ready for tax season
Keeping all the records organized will make filing your taxes so much easier. With every earning and expense accounted for, the preparations for tax season will go smoothly, and entrepreneurs can rest assured that they are compliant and ready for the visit of the IRS anytime.
Bookkeeping for entrepreneurs: tips and best practices
We’ve combined some of the most amazing tips on bookkeeping for you right here!
1. Create a separate business account
To do proper bookkeeping, you may need to consider opening a business bank account different from your own, which helps you legally separate your business and personal finances. Even if your company is incorporated and you can pay business expenses with your personal account, this adds more complications to bookkeeping and claiming tax deductions. When the line between personal and business data is blurred, it won’t be easy to track the progress of your business and plan for the future. It is expert advice that you should also apply for a business credit card for the same reasons.
2. Keep all receipts
Not only receipts but also invoices and proofs of all payments are needed to back up the validity of your tax deduction, which helps you reduce the amount of taxable business income. Providing such evidence is not a problem for credit card purchases because you can get receipts and bank statements every month as supporting documents. With cash expenses, the conventional way would be manually recording them in a notebook or spreadsheet while keeping the paper receipts for rechecks. Or you may wish to use an accounting app, snap photos of your bills, and store them safely in the cloud-like what Shoeboxed mobile app offers. Shoeboxed also helps you keep physical copies of crucial documents at your request.
3. Digitize your financial data
The most apparent advantage of going paperless is probably saving space in your office. A digital bookkeeping system allows entrepreneurs to work more effectively with less paper to store and easily retrievable data. Since a growing number of businesses are now interested in this trend, it may be too late if you persist in the old way and resist changes. However, there are some vital paper documents that you will need to retain for legal purposes. Hence, it is best to keep both physical and digital copies of such records as contracts and licenses.
4. Pick the right tools
Not many entrepreneurs are trained as accountants, so there is no need to use an accounting system that requires expert-level knowledge to begin. Do some research and choose a program to fit your business needs and bookkeeping practices. Similarly, you should pick the software whose features are compatible with your current system. For example, Shoeboxed’s receipt scanning and expense tracking services are designed to work well with major accounting programs like QuickBooks and Xero. The combination of these wonderful tools will help you finish the daunting work of data entry, categorization, and organization in no time!
5. Take advantage of professional help
Although entrepreneurs can make do with bookkeeping and accounting to some extent, most businesses will need someone committed to the job if they are to thrive. Find a professional accountant who you can trust and let them be your best business partners. Learn from their specialized knowledge and experience to facilitate your plans. It is not always about financial reports and tax prep; a good accountant can offer insight into the business that helps to guide its development and success.
People say that a successful business should make a lot of money, but that is incomplete. A business can’t grow unless it manages the money earned well. More focus must be placed on adopting good bookkeeping practices. This is not a duty of only bookkeepers and accountants – entrepreneurs should be part of it too, for the sake of their company.
You might like: The Ultimate Receipt Organization & Management Resource
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