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Archive for the Cost-Savings Tips Category

Five Money-Saving Things to Do Before Ringing Out 2016

Hopefully you’re having a wonderful December with all of the holidays and parties this month. And if you’ve spent too much on gifts and decorations, never fear. Here are six ways to save on your accounting and taxes. But hurry, you only have until year-end to cash in a few of these tips.

1. Check your profits

After adjustments, are your books going to show a profit this year? If so, you may want to try to increase business spending before year-end so you won’t have to pay as much in taxes. Consider accelerating larger expenditures to reduce your profits and therefore, your 2016 taxes.

If your business is cash-basis and you pay with a credit card, pay the card off before year-end so that it will fall into this year’s deductions.

There are many tips on business deductions, so check with us to get the full benefit.

2. Eliminate payroll headaches

If your payroll system is causing you pain and suffering, consider switching. Year-end is the best time because switching costs are lower and year-to-date amounts don’t have to be entered. You’ll still want your old system to generate January’s W-2s, but if you start writing 2017 paychecks out of a new system, it will give you a clean break.

And if you’re not sure what system to move to, we have answers.

3. Make January smoother

January is typically a bookkeeper’s busiest month of the year. Many tasks can be done early, such as checking to make sure your W-9s are current and ordering W-2 forms if they are needed. To avoid last-minute headaches, check with us to see what can be done early. It may help keep your accounting costs lower.

You may also want to consider automating more of your accounting system. Adding an app to your existing system may save you time and money in 2017.

4. Give to your favorite charity

Giving to your favorite charity may reduce your personal taxes if you plan to itemize your deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040.

There are many personal deductions that can help reduce your taxes, so check with us for options to minimize your tax payment.

5. Get ready for tax time

Start collecting the documents you need for tax time so they’ll be handy when you need them. You may be able to upload them to your accountant’s portal, or simply set them aside in a special drawer or folder.

Go through your receipts to be sure you communicate all your possible deductions. If you’ve had a major event, such as a move, new child, new marriage, or new job, be sure to mention it to us.

When all of the parties are over and the relatives have left, try these tips to save time and money on your taxes and your accounting in 2017.

Three Costly Accounting Mistakes to Avoid

Small business owners have a lot on their plates, and time simply does not allow you to become an expert in all the areas required for running a business. Here are a couple of common mistakes that we see all the time. Correcting them will help you be more productive and profitable in your business.

1. Mismanaging receipts

Maintaining receipts are challenging for everyone, but the IRS requires that you have proof of business expenditures. Periodically, we come across people who feel that keeping the credit card statements are enough; unfortunately, they’re not. You’ll want to create a process to keep your receipts all in one place so they don’t get lost.

Receipts printed on thermal paper (think gas station receipts and many more) will fade within a year or two, and the bad news is the IRS could audit several years back if they come calling. Correct this by scanning them in or taking a clear picture of them using your smartphone.

Some accounting systems and/or document management applications allow you to upload the receipt and attach it to the transaction in your accounting system. This is a great solution, and if you’re interested in this, please ask us about it.

2. Ignoring the accounting reports

There are gold nuggets in your accounting reports, but some business owners don’t take the time to review them or are uncertain about how to interpret them. Your accountant can help you understand the reports and find the gold nuggets that can help you take action toward profitability.

Some of the things you can do with your reports include:

  • Identifying your highest selling services or products
  • Projecting cash flow so you’re not caught short at payroll time
  • Getting clear on your top customers or your demographic of top customers
  • Evaluating your marketing or business development spend
  • Pointing out trends compared to prior years, budget, or seasonality effects
  • Checking up on profit margins per product or service to make sure you are priced correctly
  • Managing aging receivables or speeding up collections
  • Measuring employee profitability, if relevant
  • And so much more
  • Being proactive with your accounting will help you spot opportunities in your business that you can act on, as well as spot and correct problems long before they manifest into trouble.

    3. Mixing business and pleasure

    In your bank accounts and on your credit cards, mixing business and pleasure is to be avoided when possible. All businesses should have a separate bank account, and all business transactions should go through there. It takes an accountant much longer to correctly book a business deposit that was deposited into a personal account.

    Taking out a separate credit card and putting all your business transactions on it will save your bookkeeper a ton of time. The credit card doesn’t even have to be a business credit card. It can just be a personal credit card that’s solely used for business. If you have employees making credit card charges, sometimes a separate card for them helps you control fraud.

    The hardest area in which to separate business from pleasure is cash transactions. Be sure your accountant knows about these. The accountant can either set up a petty cash account or a reimbursement process so that you can get credit for cash expenditures that are for the business.

    How did you rate on these three mistakes? Avoid these three and your accounting department as well as your business will run a lot smoother.

Five Ways to Go Green with Your Accounting

With St. Patrick’s Day and spring arriving, March is a great month to have “green” on the mind.  There are green shamrocks, green beer, the green of new vegetation, and there’s even green accounting too.  Here are five ways to make your accounting a little more green.

Business Receipts     

When you spend money on your business, ask for an emailed receipt rather than a paper one if you have an option. More and more vendors are providing this option.   Then when the receipt comes in your email, you can forward it to your bookkeeper and/or upload it to your accounting system.

Smile for the Camera

If the vendor does not offer an emailed receipt, do the next best thing:  take a picture of the receipt with your cell phone.   Some accounting systems allow you to upload the receipt right from your phone, and if you don’t have that feature, you can always email it or upload it to your PC.

PDF Invoices

If you invoice customers, send a PDF invoice via email.  More and more businesses are abandoning the snail mail and getting it to customers faster via email.  They’re getting paid faster, and speeding up your green is usually a good thing.

Online Banking

Many people adopted online banking about a decade ago.   If you’re still getting paper statements, you can get those stopped and download your statements once a month from your online account.  It’s better not to get your statement in the mail anymore; it reduces your risk of identity theft from stolen mail.

Software and Supplies

When possible, purchase your software online and download it rather than making a gas-guzzling trip to the store and purchasing a box.  You can also order your office supplies online and have them delivered.   As long as you buy local, it should be a green purchase, and it will save you tons of time too.

These five ideas will help your accounting become a little more green.

Five Tips to Get Ready for a Pain-Free Tax Time

With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s a perfect time to get your financial records in order.  Tax moves you make now can mean finding more “green” to spend on family gifts and festivities.  Here are five quick tips for you to feel more prepared about your financial status as you go into year-end.

Avoid Penalties

This time of year is ideal to double-check your tax payments to make sure enough has been paid in, and even more important, to avoid overpaying so your money is not tied up unnecessarily. If you’re not sure of your 2013 tax liability, check with your tax preparer.

Balanced Books

Rather than wait until the busiest time of year for accountants and bookkeepers, you can get a head start now on catching up your books  You’ll have more of their attention and you may even avoid a rate increase if you get your books done early.  Completed bank reconciliations are a very important part of catching up.

Forms

It’s not too early to get your orders in for the forms you need at year-end like your W-2s, W-3s, 1099s, and 1096s.  That way, your forms will be onsite when you’re ready.

Records

Information that’s missing at the last minute can take up extra time and be costly.  It’s a great idea to do an audit now of W-9s to grab missing addresses and tax ID numbers of your contractors.  Also do a scrub of your employee payroll records so that your W-2s will be complete and accurate.

New Tax Changes

Be sure to check with your advisors on new laws affecting individuals and businesses next year.  One of the biggest ones making news is avoiding the fine involved regarding the new health care requirements for individuals.  And there are many more you’ll want to get up to speed on so that you’ll know how they affect your situation.

We know it’s early to be talking about taxes, but we’re also all about saving you money and time.  Try these five tips so you’ll have better peace of mind and be more prepared for year-end.

Five Best-Practice Accounts Payable Tips for a Smoother Cash Flow

Watching the cash balance is one of the most frequent activities of a small business owner.  Besides making sure you have enough cash for payroll and bills, there is another huge opportunity you can benefit from: lowering the cost of processing your bills.  It can be expensive and time-consuming to process bills and handle the paperwork involved.  We’ll take a look at a couple of the many ways you can streamline your accounts payable processing costs in this article.

Opportunity #1:  Go Digital

The Intuit Payment Network (IPN) is a best-kept secret when it comes to sending and receiving money.  It’s free to set up your account, and it’s also free for your receiver to set up an account.  All you do is add your bank account, and you can easily transfer funds between the two accounts just by knowing the receiver’s email address.

The receiver of money only pays 50 cents per transaction, so when you have a large transfer of funds, it’s totally worth it.  It saves you postage, check stock, envelopes and the related mailing labor.  You could even increase your payment by 50 cents so that your receiver receives exactly what you owe them.

Another way to go digital is via PayPal.  Fees vary, and are usually paid by the receiver.

Opportunity #2:  Get Control

When it comes to finances, it’s never a good idea to mix business and personal, especially when it’s coming out of the same bank account.  Keep separate accounts for business and personal, and your bookkeeping costs will go way down.  Do the same thing for credit cards as well.

If you’re comfortable with credit cards and you can maintain control of your spending, it saves accounts-payable time when you can charge everything you spend on business to your credit card as long as you pay it off every month.  Using your card is faster at checkout than writing a check these days, so you’ll save time on errands as well.

Opportunity #3:  Automate

Put recurring expenses such as utilities, rent, accounting, and other monthly bills on bank draft or autopay if the vendor has that option.  This will save you a huge amount of time, supplies, and postage.  You can also be more accurate with the timing of the payment which will allow you to keep your money for as long as possible until the due date arrives.

Opportunity #4:  Verify

We hope you never pay bills that aren’t yours, but it can happen.  To avoid it as much as possible, implement a three-way matching process on all your payables, especially those related to inventory.  The three-way part refers to the three documents involved in accounts payable:

  • The purchase order
  • The packing slip
  • The invoice

Before any invoice is paid, these three documents should be matched line by line – for quantity, price, and description — to ensure you ordered and received what you paid for.  Only then should your bill be approved.  This will ensure that you don’t pay a fraudulent bill, you don’t pay for out-of-stock that didn’t ship and that you paid the correct price you agreed to in the first place.

Please feel free to reach out and ask us about this if you’d like to know more.

Opportunity #5:  Tell Yourself a Little White Lie

There’s an old saying:  “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”  If you’re always moving money around form one checking account to another to cover bills and payroll, you’re not the only small business owner who juggles funds.  It takes up valuable time to make all these transactions, and then it costs to record them and track them.

Reduce all that by telling yourself a little white lie about your bank balance.  If your bank balance is $10,000, tell yourself it’s only $5,000 (or whatever amount makes sense for you).  That way, you’ll always have a cushion in your account that will help you reduce transfers.  There are several ways to set this “little white lie” up in your books.

More A/P Ideas

These are only five of many ways you can reduce your processing costs and save time on accounts payable processing.  Give these five accounts payable ideas a try, and if you’d like to know more, please reach out and let us know.

Budgeting Breakthrough

When you hear the word “budget,” what do you think about?  Most people would say something similar to “Ugghh!” If you would rather do just about anything besides create a budget, you’re not alone.  The word “budget” brings up connotations of endless numbers, constraints, the opposite of freedom and creativity, and hard work, none of which are very desirable.

Yet, the benefits of a budget are huge.  Budgets can help you with cash flow improvements, keep you on track for higher profits, and alert you to items that need further action.

From “Budget” to “Profit Plan”

To be successful with budgeting, we need to get rid of all of the connotations that go with the word.  Perhaps it might work if we rename “budgeting” to “profit planning.” And then, rather than focus on how little we should spend, let’s start with how much revenue we’re going to make.

Revenue Clarity

It’s simple to create a revenue plan if you go backwards.  What revenue goal would you like to hit this year?  Just like we would never get in a car without a final destination, a revenue plan gives us a number to aim for in our businesses.

Once you know your number, then we can use averages to come up how many sales or clients we need to generate in order to meet our revenue goal.  Here’s a quick example:  Let’s say you want to reach $5 million in revenue this year.  If you average order is $10,000, then you need 500 sales.  If you have multiple products and services, then you’ll need to sum the product of the average sale times the needed number of sales for each line.

From there, you can make marketing and production plans based on the number of sales or clients you need.

Protecting Your Profit

Think of the expense side of your “profit plan” as protecting your profit margins so that you can ensure financial gain from all the hard work you do.  Setting budget limits on spending will allow you to control overhead and other items so you can keep more of what you make.

Exceptional Reporting

A great “profit plan” report will provide several things.  You can compare budget to actual, or better yet, just be alerted to the accounts showing exceptions.  You can also get an income statement that compares the current period with the prior year period so you can see how far you’ve come.  One last option is a benchmark report which provides industry averages so you can measure how you fare compared to other companies in your industry.

A “profit plan” is a great tool for your business.  If we can help you with the process or provide you with custom reporting, please give us a call.

Need an A/R Makeover? A Quick, 5-Item Best Practice Checklist

Technology has allowed businesses to make substantial improvements in their customer invoicing processes.  The good news is that when you implement these technologies, you will almost always get paid much faster.

If it’s been a few years since the last time you’ve changed your accounts receivable processes, it’s time for a new look.  Here are five tips you can use to rate your own invoicing process, step by step.

1.     Invoice Creation

The best way to create all of your invoices is by the push of a button from one of about five types of systems that already have all of your data:

  •  Time and billing, if you bill hourly
  • Estimating and project management, if you use proposals
  • Customer relations management (CRM) systems that have invoicing as a feature
  • Point of sales systems that track open accounts
  • Accounting system that includes an A/R component

There are a couple of key best-practice concepts to follow at this step:

  • Eliminate any duplicate data entry you can.  You should only have to enter your invoicing data in one place, and it should flow to every other system that needs it.
  • Automate as much of the process as possible.  Never start in Word or Excel, because this always means duplicate data entry somewhere.
  • Have an easy approval process so someone else can do the data entry if needed.
  • Keep your invoice data real-time so you can benefit from the next step, which is….

2.     Invoice Delivery

How you create your invoice will vary by the type of business you have, but the main thing to make sure of is that the invoice is approved quickly and sent out to the client as soon as the work has been done.

The only way to do this is electronically.  If you’re still printing, stuffing, stamping, and mailing you invoices, you’re losing anywhere from two days to nearly a week before your customer even sees the bill.  Change that by using email or delivering the invoice electronically.

3.     Invoice Terms

When do you want to get paid?  Most people feel it’s realistic to aim for 30 days.  But if you set your payment terms to Net 30, you’re more likely to get paid in 45 days, not 30, according to recent research by Xero, where over 12 million small business invoices were reviewed.

Set your terms to 13 days or less, Xero suggests, because most small business debtors pay two weeks late.  Here is the infographic in case you want to check it out:  http://www.xero.com/guides/invoicing/

4.     Payment Method

How does your business rate when it comes to payment options?  If all you take is checks, you can add another week’s delay to your payment.  Instead, we recommend creating lots of choices for customers, such as taking:

  •  Credit and debit cards through MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover
    • You can set up links online (best) or receive a fax or scanned form where you can enter the card into your back office.
  • PayPal
  • ACH for recurring payments that the client agrees to draft from their bank account
  • Checks

Your industry may even have more options.  For example, in accounting, Intuit has their Intuit Payment Network (IPN) where small businesses can receive money electronically and send and receive requests for money.  IPN is far cheaper than PayPal fees, too.

5.     Receipt

When you get paid electronically, it’s in your bank (or your merchant account) within minutes.  If you bank online, you can see things immediately now (it’s really amazing!).  When you receive a check, you have the overhead of preparing the deposit and making the trip to the bank.  If you have hundreds of paper checks, you also have additional bank fees incurred from processing the checks.

If your accounting system interfaces with your bank, then you save a lot of time and money not having to post those transactions.

Invoice-Free Zone

Why not get out of the invoicing business altogether by offering a pay-in-advance option?  Your Accounts Receivable balance goes to nothing, to name one of many benefits.  Not every industry can adopt this practice, but if you think creatively, you might find some ways you can implement this in your business.

How did your A/R process rate on the 5-point checklist?  Got some ideas for improvement?  As always, please reach out if you have A/R questions or if we can help you implement your best practice invoicing system.

Five Cash Leaks to Avoid

Cash flow improvement is a hot issue for small businesses; in many businesses, it seems like there is never enough cash when you need it.  The last thing a business owner wants is to reduce their cash balance unnecessarily.  To help you preserve or increase your cash, here are five cash management leaks to avoid.

1. Bloated Bank Fees

Some banks are more business-friendly than others.  We recommend you assess the fees you are currently being charged to see if you can discontinue any unnecessary services.

  •  Could you maintain a cash balance to avoid monthly fees?
  • Are you being charged online banking fees and bill pay fees, and are these still necessary?
  • Are you being charged for a high volume of transactions or cash drawer services, and are these competitive with other banks?

Banks, including national brands, that have not kept up with technology and have not automated a significant amount of their transactions are inefficient and must charge higher fees to cover their processing costs.  If your accounts are located at one of these costlier banks, you do have a choice.

2.   Overtaxed

Are you sure that you are paying the lowest amount of taxes you legally owe?  There are several places to look to make sure you have not overpaid taxes anywhere in your business or personally:

  •  Payroll taxes
  • Sales and use tax
  • Franchise taxes
  • State and local income taxes
  • Property taxes
  • Federal income taxes
  • Taxes that are specific to your industry

In preparing income taxes, a few of the easiest items to overlook include carryovers from prior years and new deductions you become eligible for.  If you received a large refund this year, congratulations, but that means you gave Uncle Sam an interest-free loan on your money.  You can do better next year by estimating your tax payments and paying only what’s due.

3. The Check Is in the Mail

Customers who take too long to pay you are big cash drains in your business.  Consider changing your terms, asking for deposits, or becoming more aggressive with collections to bring your DSO (days sales outstanding) down.  When you do, you’ll get an instant, permanent cash flow improvement.

4.  Sweat the Small Stuff

You may have an eagle eye on your largest bank account, but what about your other cash stashes?  PayPal, petty cash, and business savings accounts are among the places that may not get daily scrutiny.  Make sure those accounts are properly reconciled and have the proper controls in place so funds don’t go missing.

5.  It’s in Your Interest

A nice problem to have is when your bank balances get too large and you don’t need the money immediately.  Make sure that money is still working hard for you by putting the excess in an interest-bearing account.  It’s not much these days, but every little bit helps.

Make a Dash to the Cash

If we can help you plug any of these cash leaks in your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know.

 

The Fine Art of Prioritization

Running a business usually means putting in over 40 hours a week.  In fact, if you’re the typical entrepreneur, you have more ideas you want to implement than you have time for!  That’s when proactive, strategically executed prioritization can make all the difference.

So Hard to Choose    

If you have lots of ideas in your head or on your “to do” list that are not getting done, you’re certainly not alone.  Here’s a process for helping you decide what to do first, next, and not at all.

Step 1:  Write down all your ideas, tasks, “to do’s,” projects, and even items you need to do on a daily basis.  Use a spreadsheet and list each item in a row by itself.  Later you’ll want to be able to sort the list, so we recommend using Excel or another spreadsheet software.

Once you have everything down on paper, you will be amazed at how much this unclutters your thinking.  You will also have all your great ideas captured so you don’t forget them.  You might also get very overwhelmed, but don’t stop now.  Relief is on the way.

Step 2: Add some information about each item, creating four additional columns:

  1.  Is this item about working IN your business (client work, overhead, etc.) or ON your business (new products or new services, developing procedures, hiring more staff, marketing, creating new partnerships)?
  2. Is this item revenue-generating?  Or will you lose revenue if you don’t get it done?
  3. Can you delegate this task or does it have to be done by you?
  4. If you were to hire someone to do this task, how much would it be worth per hour?

Step 3:  Analyze your choices.  Once you have these additional items filled in, you can go wild with opportunities.  Here are some very cool eye-opening activities to try:

  • Separate tasks that are working ON vs. IN your business.  There is never enough time to work on your business, so force it by blocking out a few hours or a half-day a week and do it, no matter what.  It might be the best way to make progress in your business.
  •  Sort the list by how much revenue the task could generate or how much potential it has, and decide how to prioritize from there.  If you need help calculating the ROI, return on investment of an idea, we can help you calculate that.
  • Take a look at what you marked “not able to delegate,” and ask “why not?”  Does a procedure need to be written?  Do you need more staff?  Does your staff need training?  Or do you need to learn to let go?  Whatever it is, and especially if there are a lot of these items, get these roadblocks tackled so you don’t become the bottleneck in your own business.
  • Sort the list by “column D” above, the market value you recorded for the task.  Then ask yourself what your hourly rate is.  How many tasks are you doing that are below your hourly rate?  Hiring someone to do your lowest level tasks could very well be another item you need to add to your new “to do” list!

This last one is really important, because it can so strongly affect the profitability of your business.  The last thing you want to do is go backwards and give yourself a demotion with a pay decrease, but that’s exactly what you’re doing each time you do a task yourself that’s at a low market rate.

Step 4:  Prioritize with confidence.   With all of this information in an organized spreadsheet, you will gain the clarity you need to make some powerful decisions about how to spend your time.

Time

There’s nothing more precious and scarce than our time.  Every day, we have a choice about how to spend it, but too often we get caught up in the urgent, but not important, daily fires.  This exercise helps us take a step back and look at what’s important instead of what’s urgent.

What Is Cloud Accounting?

One of the most exciting changes in the accounting industry is cloud accounting.  The concept is easy to grasp:  cloud accounting simply puts your accounting system in a private space online so that it is fully accessible to you via a browser or a secure remote connection.

Two Ways to Be in the Clouds

There are primarily two ways to have your accounting system in the cloud.  First, it can be “hosted.”  This means that the current software you are using on your desktop, such as QuickBooks or Sage, does not change.  Neither does your company file.

The only thing you do differently once it’s set up is click a different icon to start the software.  Once you log in, most everything else is the same.  There are a couple of differences in printer access, Microsoft Excel® access, and some of the other interfaces, but it’s essentially the same experience.

So if it’s the same, why would you want to move to the cloud?  Because it completely eliminates the passing back and forth of the file among you, your CPA, your bookkeeper, and anyone else that needs to update or access your accounting file.  No more restores.  No more DropBox or YouSendIt downloads.

Hosting saves a ton of time because the people you grant access to can login to your file from anywhere.

The second way to have your accounting system in the clouds is to switch to an online accounting system.  In industry jargon, this is called SaaS, which stands for Software as a Service.  Examples of online accounting systems include QuickBooks Online, Xero, Wave, and Kashoo.  These systems have fewer features and will only be right for a client with a need for a simpler accounting system.

When you switch from desktop accounting software to SaaS, it will likely require conversion, setup, and training.  It’s a major change.

Benefits

There are many benefits to moving to the cloud; here are just a few of the more common ones:

  • Anywhere, anytime access to your accounting system.  Companies with multiple locations will benefit significantly from a hosted solution.
  • No more worrying about who has what version and whether the changes the accountant made were updated or applied.  There is one central file, and multiple people can be accessing it at the same time as long as you have the right number of user licenses.
  • No more software updates that you have to apply yourself or wait for.  This is done by the hosting provider or the SaaS.
  • Tighter security for your data.  The data centers typically have multiple state-of-the-art data security controls and must pass a rigid audit, which is far more protection than any small business can afford to provide for their own data.
  • Automatic offsite backup for disaster recovery purposes.

Concerns

Clients’ two major concerns include security, which is covered above, and costs.  When it comes to costs, the most important thing to look at is return on investment.  Will the time you save be of greater value to you than the costs of hosting or moving to a SaaS?  That answer varies for each client.

Curious About the Cloud?

If we’ve piqued your curiosity about cloud accounting, please feel free to reach out so we can continue the conversation.

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