End of Year Tax Preparation

True it is only September, but the new year is right around the corner, and now is the time to make sure you are ready to file your taxes. Isn’t that so exciting? The more organized and complete you are with your bookkeeping throughout the year, the easier this will be. But you can still take time over the next 3 months, making January-April much easier for you in 2014. Here’s a list of tasks to make sure you’re organized and are not missing anything.

1. Reconcile all bank statements. This process helps to ensure that you have properly recorded your payments and expenses. It also helps you catch any possible bank errors or extra fees that you should not have had to pay.
2. Make sure you have invoiced your customers, which keeps your invoicing system organized. Also review any unpaid balances and make sure that your outstanding balances match your records.
3. Record all transactions that are not paid for with your business account. Sometimes we make charges or pay for things in cash without recording them. By reconciling credit card statements, it is easier to keep track of business expenses versus personal expenses. If you don’t record all of your expenses, your reports will show a higher profit and you will pay more in taxes.
4. Track your mileage, record trips, and keep gas receipts if possible. Your commute to and from your place of work is not allowed to be used as an expense, but any trip taken for business can add up over the year.
5. Review your categorized expenses. Office supplies and entertainment costs should be in the correct category so that you can compare costs from last month and last year. This also ensures that only deductible expenses are recorded, eliminating possibilities for record errors.
6. Make sure contact information is accurate for employees and contractors so that W2’s are properly prepared. Collect your contractors’ W9 forms because in January, you may be required to file a 1099 form for them, and you will need accurate taxpayer information.
7. Prepare a budget for next year. Take your Profit and Loss statement for this year and enter this information into next year’s budget. Then take a look at the sales and expenses for each month and make any changes if needed. Continue to review your income and expenses throughout the year.

What are you doing to make tax season a little easier for your business? If you need help organizing your records or handling your bookkeeping, that is what we do best! 

3 Rules for Writing off Entertainment Costs

When owning or running a business, we frequently go to business lunches, or attend business happy hours, or take potential clients to sports games, or even have business parties on the weekend! I like to write off business expenses as much as any other business owner, but taking advantage of entertainment write-offs can be rejected and cause all kinds of issues when dealing with an auditor at tax time.

Not to worry- with a little balance and carefulness, these 3 rules for writing off entertainment costs can save you a headache next April.

1. Conduct business First. (Or last.)
When you write off a meal or event, make sure it is revolved around business, and that business is conducted during these meetings. Personally, I like to get business out of the way first. But you can save it for dessert if you like- such freedom in owning a business! But make sure that if you are deducting a meal or entertainment outside of the office that you are either discussing business strategy, solving current problems, or figuring out the next steps to take on a new project. Simply mentioning work-life and then discussing nothing else but relationships, kids, or Hollywood gossip (guilty!) does not qualify as a valid deduction in your entertainment costs. The same goes for parties and large gatherings. Simply throwing a party is not enough to qualify as a deduction. There must be an educational speech, a new product or service reveal, or some kind of riveting sales pitch!

2. Check your guest list. 
You may not know this, but if you throw a party for employees and spouses, or an event that is open to the public, you can deduct this event 100%! But here’s the tricky part. If the party is for clients, potential clients, and independent contractors, then only 50% of the cost may be deducted. If you have a mix of all of the above, part of the cost may be written off 100%, and the remainder may be a 50%-write-off, depending on the number of guests in either category. This is a good time to talk to your tax consultant.

3. Record to defend!
It wouldn’t be fair if we threw parties and had nice dinners without having a disclaimer, right? A good rule of thumb is that if it’s too much fun, you probably can’t deduct it. So calm down, and stop smiling. Just kidding. But just to cover yourself and your business, make sure that you keep every receipt and that you record all the necessary information to ensure your deduction qualifies. Keep a record of your guest list. Record your sales pitch, speech, or product/service launch in an itinerary. I would even make sure to include pictures and a video- just to be safe! Plus, if you are dressed really fancy, you would want something to remember the event, right?

We are masters at keeping organized records of clients’ expenditures. If you need help figuring out what to deduct and how to keep it all straight, we’ve got you covered. info@journeybookkeeping.com. 


7 Reasons to Hire a Bookkeeper

The time you spend operating your business from day to day should be focused on what brings income and makes your business profitable. Outsourcing the other tasks is part of what keeps a business running smoothly and efficiently  If you are wondering whether or not hiring a bookkeeper is right for you, here are 7 reasons why you should consider hiring one.

A bookkeeper does the day-to-day hands-on tasks, including making sure new employees file all the right paperwork for the company’s payroll, submitting invoices in a timely manner and following up on them, and paying the bills.

A bookkeeper tracks company expenses and can assure that every cost has been entered  and correctly recorded into software, such as QuickBooks, so that the business is ready for tax time or reports to creditors or investors.

A bookkeeper sorts out all of your receipts from miscellaneous expenses, including taxi rides, meals, conferences and other expenses he has placed on his company’s debit card.

A bookkeeper shows you how expenditures stack up against a budget.

A good bookkeeper will not bill clients incorrectly or miss important payments.

A bookkeeper helps you identify financial trends in your business and can help you strategically plan where your money is going, how you can save, and where you may be able to exercise tax benefits.

A bookkeeper hired outside of your company (or contracted) can work part time from home, their office or even your office if you need them to. This way, there is no need to hire a full-time in-office bookkeeper.

There is a wide range of bookkeeping needs, depending on the type of business you own. We are skilled at assessing your needs and creating a custom plan for you, whether you are looking for basic services, Quickbooks, services, or additional office services, we are here for you. Be sure to check out our Services page to see more options.

5 Productive Ways to Spend your Tax Return

If you are expecting to or have already received a tax return this year, you are probably pretty excited! It’s like a bonus right? Well, actually, this money was yours to begin with. Think of it as the IRS’s nice way of saving it for you.

Now you may have ideas of a wild weekend or a fancy new toy you could purchase with this money, but before you do that, let’s consider 5 other choices that may be a little more helpful to your financial situation. Evaluate your needs, and treat this check like you would any other paycheck before spending it all.

1. Pay off a high interest debt or credit card. If you have a lot of debt, one of the most productive things you can do with your tax refund is to pay off loans that cost you the most to carry each month. Pay down any Payday loans, credit cards, private student loans, car loans, or anything that, once paid, will increase your monthly cash flow and eliminate high interest payments each month.

2. Consider home improvements or refinancing. With good credit and a healthy understanding of the mortgage re-finance market, you may be able to take advantage of the record-low interest rates, saving you thousands of dollars on interest each year. If you are content with your mortgage rate, go through your home and decide if your tax return could be allotted to pay for kitchen repairs, a new roof, upgraded energy-efficient appliances, curb appeal, a new paint job, or maybe even a new pool.

3. Increase (or start) an emergency fund. Emergency funds are there for peace of mind. One would hope this money would never need to be used, but sometimes, without a backup plan, even a small financial surprise can send you into panic mode. It is prudent to maintain about 6-8 months worth of savings in an account to cover all types of emergencies, and you will be well-prepared when something unexpected comes up. As a good habit to follow up on, once your savings account has been established, continue to set aside a set amount or percentage each month.

4. Spend it on things you or your family needs. It is spring time, so it may be time for a round of new tennis shoes or sandals for the family. Take inventory, check with each member of your family, and find out what is pressing, including new clothing, school or activity supplies, medical or dental needs, or vehicle repairs.

5. Invest in family time. Perhaps you have everything you need, or maybe you allot a percentage to each of the ideas above and you have money remaining. One of the best investments you can make is time with your family. Plan a spring or summer trip together, even if it is a short weekend trip. Cut extra expenses by driving or camping. Go explore, see new tings, laugh, get dirty, enjoy each other. You will create memories that way outlast tax season!

We would love to hear how you chose to spend your tax return this year or even in the past. Have you don’t anything exciting or unique, or something that we mentioned here?

Business Taxes

Businesses pay a lot of taxes for several different things each year; these include income taxes, sales taxes, and payroll taxes. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep them straight, so here is a simple breakdown.

Taxes payable represents a liability or an obligation a business needs to pay. This liability needs to pay taxes to several agencies, including the federal government, the state government, and the city government. You may chose to pay your business’ taxes monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on its size and obligation. Taxes payable increases when the company gains additional tax obligations and decreases when the company makes payments.

Income tax refers to money the company owes based on its earnings. All businesses except partnerships must file an annual income tax return. (Partnerships file an information return.) The form you use depends on the business entity you have established. You can read more about which business entity is right for you here.

Sales tax refers to money the company collects from customers within their borders and sends to the state tax collector. In most states, each retail sale is taxable, and recently, more states have expanded the scope of their sales taxes to encompass leasing transactions and even some services. As the business owner, you are responsible for knowing what items or services are taxed at which rates.

Payroll taxes refer to money your business owes based on employee wages. They include federal unemployment tax, state unemployment tax, Social Security tax and Medicare tax. Businesses use an employee’s W-4 form to calculate how much federal income tax should be withheld from each paycheck. It’s important to remember that all money an employer pays its employees is subject to payroll tax, not just standard salary, wages and tips. Be sure to keep excellent records so that you are able to file and pay this tax properly.

Do you need help keeping excellent records? Contact us to Find out how we can help you get organized.

3 Tax preparation Tips

As the tax season is upon us, it is wise to be well-prepared instead of scrambling at the last minute, with sweaty palms and fingers crossed, hoping everything “goes through” okay. If you need any help applying these tips, our organized, highly-trained staff is here to keep your business records on track to keep this process more stream-lined for you.

1. Maintain complete correct records. You may hear this from tax professionals all year long, but proper record-keeping year-round is the first step to ensure that your taxes are filed accurately. It also helps to ensure that you have all the necessary paperwork and receipts to back-up your deduction claims in case you are audited. Use an accounting or software program that can help you centralize and track your income and expenditures so that your expenses are easy to deduct when the time comes.

2. Understand deductions. As a small business, what deductions can you take? You should not only know what your options are, but you should also have documentation and receipts to back them up. Tax credits and deductions change year by year, so we will not list them all here, but you should be able to write off business operating expenses, large expenses, and even personal expenses. Both your CPA and your current tax software can help guide you through these deductions by asking you questions. (This is why tip 1 is so important.)

3. Determine who is best-qualified to prepare your taxes. Many businesses hire a CPA, but it is common for sole proprietors, home-based business owners, or freelancers to prepare taxes themselves using a software program. Be aware, however, that not all software programs accommodate business tax filers, particularly those who need to file Schedule C. Before you purchase or sign up for a service, make sure it supports common business forms; some of these include Turbo Tax, H&R Block, and TaxAct. If you decide to entrust this job with a CPA, make sure you research his or her credentials, and find out how they have been reviewed by previous customers.

If you know of a tip, blog, or article that may help fellow business men and business women be more prepared to file their taxes this year, please leave them in the comments below. If we can help you maintain your records, please give us a call.

Post originally written by Bodhi Leaf Media for www.journeybookkeeping.com

Which Business Entity is Right for You?

If you are starting a new business, congratulations! This is a huge and exciting part of your professional life, and we are here to help navigate some of those testy new-business waters.

One of the first steps in starting your business is choosing which business entity is right for you so that you can begin and maintain the proper tax and bookkeeping records. You will want to carefully study and weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each business type to determine which is best for you, but here is a short description of each.

You have 4 choices: DBA Regular or C-Corporation S-Corporation Limited Liability Company

A DBA, also known as a “sole proprietorship”, “Doing Business As” or a “Fictitious Name” is basically described as a business that is not separate from its owner; the business simply operates under another name for the owner. This means that the owner is personally liable for the company and its debt, and all income becomes an extension of the owner’s personal tax returns. If there is more than one owner, then the business is called a “General Partnership”. This business entity is easy to set up and maintain, but if you plan to operate beyond your city or county, keep in mind that a DBA is not recognized at state level.

A Regular Corporation or C-Corporation is a separate legal entity from its owner, protecting him from personal liability and company debt. As a separate entity, it can buy real estate, enter into contracts, pursue legal action, money can be raised via stocks, ownership may be transferred, the business may continue regardless of ownership, and tax advantages are definitely worth investigating.  Operating a corporation requires holding a yearly Directors and Shareholders meeting, keeping written minutes, and maintaining corporate compliance as set forth in the Corporate Bylaws. This business entity is more expensive than a DBA, but is one of the oldest and most successful types of business entities because it conveys permanence and has many tax, healthcare and travel  benefits.

Once a corporation has been formed, it may choose to attain “S-Corporation Status” by adopting specific regulations and submitting a form to the IRS. This allows a corporation to be taxed as a partnership or sole proprietorship, meaning the income is passed through to the share-holders for the purpose of computing tax returns. Most new small corporations choose this status so that profits and losses can be added to shareholders’ personal tax returns without having to pay taxes on profits twice (once when profits are made and once when they are returned to shareholders as income or dividends). This is the main reason S-Corporations were created, and is very beneficial for tax reasons. However, S-Corporations cannot deduct many of their expenses, such as health insurance, travel, entertainment, etc. They are also restricted to 100 shareholders or fewer, all shareholders must be US citizens, and these businesses cannot be owned by other business entities. They require a lot of paperwork and formalities, and they are expensive to set up, so it is important to weigh the costs before beginning this type of business..

An LLC or Limited Liability Company is popular because it provides the protection of a corporation, but allows operation without the formalities; thus it are more of a hybrid of a corporation and a partnership (or DBA). An LLC provides easy management, allows “pass-through” taxation as with a DBA, combined with the liability protection of a Corporation. There is no stock or share-holders, so there are no stock regulations to adhere to, and there are few formalities aside form requiring an “Operating Agreement” or rules for operating the company. The ease of management and limited compliance requirements make LLC’s user-friendly and have become the top entity of choice for 1-5 person start up businesses.

Once you have made your entity choice and you area ready to set up your books, please contact us to see how we can further assist you.

Post originally written by Bodhi Leaf Media for www.journeybookkeeping.com

Fun Bookkeeping Facts

Though bookkeeping is a quiet profession, there are some exciting facts behind its history. We at Journey Bookkeeping like to keep things interesting, so we dug up some fun factoids about the business that should make you smile, which is what we like to do for our clients.

The first book on double-entry accounting was written by friar Luca Bartolomeo, an Italian mathematician in 1494. Though bookkeeping had been around for centuries, his 27-page book on the subject earned him the title “Father of Modern Accounting”.

The ancient Romans were so obsessed with record keeping that their military bases kept detailed accounts of thing such as how much grain was in their stores and how many nails were in their workshops. We aren’t sure how detailed of a report you could create, but it would be interesting to read.

The only words with three consecutive double letters are “bookkeeping” and “bookkeeper”.

New York State gave its first certified public accountant (CPA) exam in 1896.

Bubblegum, one of our favorite treats to enjoy today was invented in 1928 by Walter Dimer, an accountant.

The FBI holds accountants in such high regard that they have more than 1400 among its special agents. Accountants and bookkeepers are pretty intelligent.

The term “bean counter” has been thought of as an ancient term used to describe a detail-oriented bookkeeper, but actually, this term originated in the 1970’s.

Celebrities who began their careers as accountants, bookkeepers, or CPA’s include Ultimate Fighting Chamption Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, jazz artist Kenny G., comedian Bob Newhart, author John Grisham, Rolling Stones’ front man Mick Jagger and singer Janet Jackson.

Since 1935, a team of CPAs has spent on average of 1700 hours prior to Oscar night counting the Academy Awards ballots by hand. Two lucky accountants from the Academy’s firm even get to make a live appearance during the broadcast, dressed to the nines (we love numbers).

If you’re looking for a safe job, professions in the accounting industry are in the top 10. We wonder if this includes accountants who work for the FBI.

Leonardo da Vinci invented a prototype of a computer-machine that used 13 wheels to register numerical digits.

Adding machines weren’t invented until the late 1800’s, and real computing machines weren’t introduced to businesses until the 1940’s. Even then, they took up an entire room, and their computing abilities were far inferior to today’s devices, such as our mobile phones. When calculators were finally invented, we bookkeepers were among the first to use them, along with scientists.

Do you know of any other fun bookkeeping facts?

For any questions or comments regarding bookkeeping or how we can help, please email us at info@journeybookkeeping.com.

Post originally written by Bodhi Leaf Media for www.journeybookkeeping.com