Financial Record Keeping: Best Practices for Small Businesses

Financial record keeping is essential for smooth tax preparation. Keeping the process of recording all financial transactions thorough, accurate, and precisely helps a business succeed and helps its finances meet all regulations and the required standards of operation.

This article will suggest six financial record keeping best practices for small business owners to simplify their bookkeeping. 

Incorporate a good document management system into your business

As you grow your business, your business documents and files expand, too. Instead of stacking your desk and drawers with piles of paper, try to go paperless so you can access your records easily, at any time, from anywhere. 

You can then implement a digital document management system to organize all your business documents. Then set a document control system that specifies how often to review and update documents.

Back up and secure your records

We live in a time where data breaches and natural disasters are rampant. Take time to back up and secure your records to avoid catastrophe. Whether you store your records on paper or a hard drive, remember to back them up in at least two places. 

Digitizing all your important documents is also a good idea as it protects them from being lost, stolen, or destroyed. However, storing records digitally increases the risk of theft. So when you store your business records online, secure your account with a unique and strong password, and enable two-factor authentication.

Understand the lifecycle of records 

Every record will have its own lifespan, and some financial documents must be kept for a certain amount of time. It’s necessary to ensure that all retention and disposal schedules are correctly applied to each type of record generated in each department. 

Here are the essential documents you need to keep and the time you need to keep them.

Seven years or longer

When it comes to taxes, it’s a good idea to preserve any tax records for at least seven years. The IRS’s audit statute of limitations is three years. In some situations, they can go back as far as six or seven years (e.g., if you underreported your income by 25% or more.) State statutes of limitations vary, so you can consult a tax professional to understand your state’s limitations.

You should also keep for up to seven years any records that corroborate the information on your taxes, such as your W-2 and 1099 forms, receipts, and payments. Keep receipts for any assets you own for as long as you own them, such as receipts for home renovation work. 

One year

Records that you need to keep for at least one year are the following: 

  • Non-tax-related bank and credit card statements
  • Investment statements
  • Paycheck
  • Medical bills 
  • Receipts for large purchases

If you need to support your current-year tax preparation or have an unresolved insurance dispute, don’t throw away these records for at least a year!

Many banks and credit card companies now provide electronic statements, so it’s not necessary to keep paper versions on hand. However, if you still want to keep a copy of those records, you can digitize them by scanning them with a receipt scanner before discarding the original paper documents.

Less than a year

Some documents do not need to be kept in your home for an extended period of time. Don’t bother about keeping receipts unless they’re related to:

  • Product warranties
  • Your tax returns
  • Insurance claims

You can throw away most monthly bills after paying them or after they have been deposited into your bank statement. If you need to go back to verify anything later, see if you can access past invoices through online account access. Many service providers store past bills and invoices available online for the past few months or longer.

Start a new file after each year

Starting a new file at the start of each new year is a simple method that can help you save a lot of time and make going through your information much easier. 

It will also make it easier for you to remove records you no longer need for whatever reason, such as when the five-year retention period has expired.

Keep records of transactions for bank reconciliations

Bank reconciliations help small businesses detect errors and better understand their financial situation. It’s also a good opportunity to double-check that you have records for all of your business dealings.

Some accounting software allows users to attach documents to each transaction, so anyone who opens your books can view the associated record. It’s good to match every transaction in your accounting software to a record during your monthly bank reconciliation. Make sure you have a corresponding invoice, receipt, or contract as you go through your company activities.

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Choose accounting software that can generate records

Today, many accounting software can generate reports from customers’ invoices. For example, Shoeboxed, the painless receipt scanning and expense management app tailored for freelancers and small business owners, can take over the heavy task of preparing reports from your plate. 

After scanning your receipts with OCR engines, Shoeboxed will automatically create clear and comprehensive reports so you can send them out for approval immediately. Shoeboxed can help small business owners save time and effort, allowing them to spend more time on the business’s core. 

The bottom line

Keeping financial records properly can be challenging at first. Still, as long as you keep these financial record keeping best practices in hand, you’ll be able to run your business smoothly even if you don’t have an accounting background. The most difficult part is collecting the information. After you’ve formed the collecting habit, the rest will be in place. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Shoeboxed blog for more helpful accounting and bookkeeping knowledge and best practices for small business owners! 

About Shoeboxed

Shoeboxed is a receipt management application that turns your receipts and business documents into a digital format in just one click by taking a picture straight from your smartphone or scanning a pdf. It automatically extracts, categorizes, and human-verifies important data from your receipts so that you can go over and check your records anytime with ease. Shoeboxed ensures you will always have your receipts securely stored and ready for tax purposes.

Access your Shoeboxed account from your web browser or smartphone app. Stay audit-ready with Shoeboxed for FREE now!

What Are a Bookkeeper’s Responsibilities?

Bookkeepers are essential for any business. The core function of a bookkeeper is data collection and data input of a business’ accounting cycle. However, a bookkeeper’s responsibilities can vary significantly from business to business. So, if you’re considering hiring a bookkeeper for your small business, it’s important to understand a bookkeeper’s responsibilities to find suitable candidates as quickly as possible. 

Reconciling entries to balance subsidiary accounts

Account reconciliation after each financial month or quarter is crucial for companies and individuals. This allows them to check for fraudulent behavior and avoid accounting information problems by ensuring each transaction adds to the required final account balance.

The amount of each transaction needs to be compared to the amount shown as entering or exiting the relevant account throughout the documentation review process. For example, small business owners can sometimes dismiss small expenses or use their business cards to pay for their personal expenses. The resulting unusual bank statements can cause trouble with the IRS, so to avoid this, a bookkeeper will verify credit card activity with receipts and make adjustments if needed.

Maintaining a balanced general ledger

A general ledger is the cornerstone of a process used by bookkeepers to record and arrange accounting transactions necessary to generate income reports for the company. 

The transactions are subsequently closed or reported to the general ledger, and the bookkeeper prepares a trial balance, which serves as a summary of the balance of each ledger account. The trial balance is reviewed for faults and modified by posting additional required entries before being utilized to construct the income reports.

The bookkeeper collates and analyzes general ledger transaction information at several tiers to create financial statements, net income, balance sheets, cash flow, and other financial reports. This assists business owners, corporate management, auditors, shareholders, and other participants in continuously assessing the financial operations.

Preparing a trial balance for the accountant

A trial balance is a list of all the accounting journal balance sheets. It helps to verify that a debit registered in one accounting system is balanced with another account in the credit. A trial balance also serves as the foundation for creating the cash flow statement, the income statement, and the statement of cash flow.

Bookkeepers must first finish or “balance off” the ledger accounts to produce a trial balance by displaying each closing amount from the accounting records as a debit or credit balance. The sum of the ledger accounts should always match the sum of the credit accounts. 

Monitoring for variances from the projected budget

A budget variance is a recurring metric used among authorities, organizations, and individuals to assess the difference between budgeted and actual statistics for a particular accounting area. 

A favorable budget variance denotes positive variations or benefits, while an unfavorable budget variance denotes negative variance, indicating losses or shortages. A favorable variance occurs when revenue exceeds budgeted levels or expenses are lower than expected, while an unfavorable variance happens when the income falls far short of the estimated budget or expenses exceed expectations.

Budget variations can occur as a result of both controlled situations (such as a poorly planned budget and labor costs) and uncontrollable situations (such as a natural disaster.)

If there is a significant difference, bookkeepers will examine the financial records to find the cause. Then, they will decide whether to rectify the situation or not. However, if a significant disparity continues over a longer time, the business owner needs to review their planning approach.

Collecting and organizing financial data

Bookkeeping is the branch of accounting that handles the gathering and organizing of financial data. This implies that the bookkeepers’ responsibilities include collecting, arranging, and filing all financial data for your organization.

A bookkeeper is responsible for managing:

  • Invoices/receipts
  • Payroll records
  • Bank and credit cards statements 
  • Tax forms and other tax-related documents

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The bottom line

Understanding a bookkeeper’s responsibilities will assist you in finding a qualified bookkeeper for your business. However, if you’re new to running a business and short on resources, you can try handling these tasks by yourself. 

To achieve that, you can consult with a bookkeeper professional, take up some bookkeeping courses, and rely on accounting software. And Shoeboxed can help you with that!  

About Shoeboxed

Shoeboxed is a receipt management application that turns your receipts and business documents into a digital format in just one click by taking a picture straight from your smartphone or scanning a pdf. It automatically extracts, categorizes, and human-verifies important data from your receipts so that you can go over and check your records anytime with ease. Shoeboxed ensures you will always have your receipts securely stored and ready for tax purposes.

Access your Shoeboxed account from your web browser or smartphone app. Stay audit-ready with Shoeboxed for FREE now!

Essential Accounting Principles and Practices for Small Businesses

Accounting principles are the rules and guidelines that companies must follow when reporting financial data. These standards are implemented to improve the quality of any business’s financial report. This article will give you a detailed look at small businesses’ essential accounting principles and practices. 

What are accounting principles and practices?

Accounting principles are the standards and criteria that businesses must stick to while presenting accounting transactions. 

In the US, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) produces the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), a defined set of accounting principles.

Each set of accounting principles’ actual objective is to guarantee that a statement of financial position is accurate, uniform, and consistent. This makes it easy for shareholders to examine and obtain information from its financial statements, such as historical trend data. 

The accounting principles also make it easier to compare financial information between organizations and help reduce fraudulent activity by boosting openness and identifying red flags.

Some of the most basic accounting principles are the following:

  • Accrual principle
  • Conservatism principle
  • Consistency principle
  • Cost principle
  • Economic entity principle
  • Full disclosure principle
  • Going concern principle
  • Matching principle
  • Materiality principle
  • Monetary unit principle
  • Reliability principle
  • Revenue recognition principle
  • Time period principle

Why understanding accounting principles and practices is important

These accounting principles and practices are critical in enhancing the quality of a business’s financial reports. They produce logical and improved accounting statements that accountants can follow and readers can understand easily. 

They also facilitate the comparison of financial statements and serve as the foundation for calculating taxable income. Accounting principles and practices also help investors, lenders, creditors, and shareholders make more accurate decisions for the business. 

Examples of the most common accounting principles and practices

In this part, we’ll take a closer look at the most common accounting principles and practices. 

Revenue recognition principle

The revenue recognition principle requires you to only record revenue when the business has completed the earnings process, not when the associated cash is collected. 

For example, a snow plowing service completes the plowing of a mansion for its standard fee of $500. It can recognize the revenue immediately upon completion of the plowing, even if the house owner hasn’t paid the company yet. This concept is also included in the accrual basis of accounting.

Cost principle

The cost principle requires that a business should only record its assets, liabilities, and equity investments at their original purchase costs. Furthermore, the amount recorded will not be adjusted for inflation or market value changes.

The only exception to this principle is a change in the market value of short-term investments in a corporation’s capital stock that is actively traded on a major stock exchange.

For example, a business purchased an office building for $280,000 in 2015. In 2022, the property is appraised at a value of $400,000. The business may not change the cost principle since this increase relates to the increase in market value. Instead, the business might credit the difference in value to an equity account. Therefore, the actual cost principle still reflects the initial purchase price of the building and not the increased value.

Matching principle

The matching principle requires that when you record revenue, you should record all related expenses in the same reporting period. 

For example, your employee earns a 5% commission on an $8,000 contract signed and recorded in February. The commission of $8,000 is paid in March. In this case, you should record the commission expense in February so that the expense is recognized in the same reporting period as the associated contract.

Full disclosure principle

The full disclosure principle requires businesses to include in or alongside their financial statements all of the information that may impact a reader’s interpretation of those statements. 

For example, business owners don’t want to reveal the real situation of their business to outsiders, such as customers, investors, or competitors, as it can lead to bankruptcy. However, according to the Full disclosure principle, the business is required to disclose such situations in its financial statements.

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The bottom line

Understanding the accounting principles and practices helps complete and strengthen your business’s financial statements, making it easier to analyze and extract necessary financial information from these reports. From that, business owners and investors can make more accurate decisions, manage cash flow, and improve their businesses in the long run. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Shoeboxed blog for more helpful accounting and bookkeeping knowledge and best practices for small business owners! 

About Shoeboxed

Shoeboxed is a receipt management application that turns your receipts and business documents into a digital format in just one click by taking a picture straight from your smartphone or scanning a pdf. It automatically extracts, categorizes, and human-verifies important data from your receipts so that you can go over and check your records anytime with ease. Shoeboxed ensures you will always have your receipts securely stored and ready for tax purposes.

Access your Shoeboxed account from your web browser or smartphone app. Stay audit-ready with Shoeboxed for FREE now!