It’s only mid-way through the fall but it’s not too early to be thinking about your tax returns for next year.
In fact, now is the time to be thinking about your personal and business tax returns especially if you have had issues in the past and want to do it right or better this time. Your tax records and tax filings are too important to be done just by anyone, including yourself, who is unfamiliar with tax laws, deadlines and forms. It could be a serious financial and legal mistake to do it on your own without any advice.
So as the holidays draw closer, begin the search for a tax advisor. Here are Five Things to Consider When Choosing a Tax Advisor:
- Relevant Industry Experience: No tax advisor can know everything about every industry. Make sure you are comfortable with the amount of experience the tax advisor has with your industry. Don’t be afraid to ask the advisor if he has other clients in your industry and how long he has been doing work for them. The accounting firm partners should be able to tell you if they have enough experience to handle your case. If not, ask them to send you to a firm that can do it.
- Five-year Minimum experience: The senior member should have at least five to ten years of experience in completing business tax returns. Also, better to find a larger accounting firm with a variety of tax advisors. This means that the accountants have had diverse experiences with a variety of industries.
- Certified Public Accountant (“CPA”) Designation: As a business owner, your tax advisor should be a CPA at a minimum. You can also choose an Atty/CPA as your tax advisor. An Atty/CPA is a dually designated individual who is both an Attorney and a CPA and is generally more knowledgeable than an advisor who is just a CPA. Either way make sure you have one or the other. As a business owner you cannot afford not to.
- Audit Representation: IRS audits are a fact of life. Even though IRS audits are down recently, you never know and cannot control whether they will audit you next. Even the most honest among us have had to go through the stress and endure the headache of having an IRS auditor reviewing our tax returns. It is, then, crucial for your tax advisor to agree to represent you during any and all audits. They can answer questions, find documents and, most importantly, advise you on any issues druing the audit. You do not want to go through an audit alone. Make sure your tax advisor is there every plodding step of the way.
- Fees and Fee Structure: Before you sign up with any tax advisor, find out what they charge for their services. Make sure that you are comfortable with how and what they charge. Being organized with your business records can help prevent your Accounting Bill from getting out of control. Quicken, Quickbooks, Mint or other accounting programs can help maintain your records in reasonable workable shape. Any paper documents should be organized by type and date. Avoid the “shoebox style of organization” which forces advisors to spend hours (and your money) trying to put it all together. You will save a lot on time and fees (and bad will) by organizing your documents.
- Location: With the advent of the internet and the 21st century, your tax advisor does not have to be a few blocks down the road, though being local saves on expenses, especially if you are audited. They can be in another city or state. However, if you have multiple businesses that require a lot of attention from professionals, then you will probably be better served by having someone local who can drop by and advise you on a more frequent basis and keep abreast of your local issues as well.
Yes, it seems too early to be talking about tax advisors, but you may already be rethinking that after reading this blog. That’s good because the next quarterly filing is coming up in January. Don’t go it alone. Find a licensed and experienced tax advisor today.
A.K. Burton, PC has experienced and licensed tax advisors on staff. If you need more advice on business and individual tax planning, contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, your death to be more specific. It’s not something you want to think about and we should not be obsessed with it.
However, not planning for it is a major mistake many people make. We will all die one day. Death is something we can’t plan but we can plan to provide for our family and loved ones once the inevitable happens.
Estate Planning can actually be a relief to many who do it. It eliminates a lot of stress for you and your loved ones. How many stories have you heard of someone’s sudden death and the spouse and family being left with thousands of dollars in debts and no money to cover funeral expenses.
So, now is the time to take the First Steps in Estate Planning. Those all-important first steps should include the following:
- Create a Will and sign it: This first step is so simple and yet seems to be the most difficult or most often forgotten. (Only 43% of adults have a will according to a 2011 Harris Interactive Survey.) However, this is the most important and simplest step of all. Your property needs to be identified and the heirs to them named. So, in your will, name an executor who can properly disburse your property according to your wishes and pay off any estate debts. If you fail to execute a will, your property and debts may be passed on equally to your spouse and children according to the Law of Intestacy. That may cause hardship and incur extra legal costs. It’s much better to have a will and also be sure to sign and date it.
- Leave a detailed letter: Sometimes, you need to say more than the will allows. In this case, write a detailed letter stating your desires for your funeral arrangements, wording for the obituary, sentimental items you want to give to heirs, funeral program and other items. This letter would be kept and read by your attorney and/or executor. (You may have to amend this letter, along with your will, over the years.)
- Create an advanced health care directive: Many people fail to plan for health care emergencies. This unfortunate lack of planning and insight leaves their loved ones having to plan or decide on how to take care of them causing great stress and expense. A stroke, cardiac arrest or other major health crisis occurs and you may be unable to express your end-of-life desires to your family. This is a nightmare scenario. So, plan your “Advance Health Care Directive” giving explicit directions on how you should be treated when that moment occurs. Many people have a “DNR” or “do not resuscitate” orders on their medical and HIPAA release form. Your estate planning attorney can prepare this form for you and they can give your health care agent/case management team the right to get this information under the HIPAA rules. (You can find out more from the ABA’s “Consumer’s Toolkit for Health Care Advance Planning.”)
- Hire a Durable Power of Attorney (DPA): Your will and executor are a great start but you will still need an attorney to make sure all your wishes are known and executed should you be too sick to have it done. You may need to choose a trusted family attorney or a financial advisor. It should be someone familiar with the legal and financial issues and also someone who provide professional and compassionate advice to your heirs. (A relative is not recommended in this case as they would not have necessary objectivity needed in making decisions.)
This is only the start of estate planning. We will get into more detail in future blogs. The main point here is this: get that will written and signed. Everything after that can be done in time. Make this sadness less stressful for you loved ones by making sure they are taken care of and your property and assets go to those whom you want to have it. It’s not too late to do it today, in fact.
If you need more advice on estate planning, we have licensed and experienced attorneys at A. K. Burton, PC who can help you plan every step of the way. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at email@example.com.
No matter how long you have been in the accounting business, recruiting, maintaining and retaining clients is difficult, even with the best of them.
The reasons are long: they are offended by a mistake; they are offered a larger menu of services for a better price; a firm opens closer to their business; a partner they worked with leaves your firm…well, you get the idea. Some reasons small business accounting clients leave are out of your hands. Yet, many others are within your control and can be mitigated if done properly.
Customer service is not an art. However, it’s just smart practice not to take your clients for granted. So, here are Five Ways You Can Treat Your Small Business Accounting Clients Better, so they thrive and you do, too:
- Develop a list of services your client could use: Currently, your clients may have only one service. But, could they benefit from estate planning, tax preparation or Quickbooks services? Also determine what they may not need like tax preparation or a financial advisor. Have a “Client Needs List” with checks and “x’s” on each service you offer. Then send a list to the client of what you can recommend to them with an offer to make an appointment at their convenience. While some may be skeptical that it is a sales tool (which it is, but only partly), most clients will appreciate that you have inquired and may gladly set up a meeting to discuss their small business accounting needs.
- Create and focus on your “Accounting Niche”: Your accounting firm may have a large number of services but which one do your do the best? Do an inventory of your firm and find out where you excel. That service should be the one you market the most to your clients. Once you have determined it, do a survey of your clients. You may even want to do a SWOT Analysis (Strength/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) which will give you an objective report on everything. Once you have determined your strongest service, market it.
- Cultivate your referral sources: Your accounting firm is probably getting referrals from insurance agents, attorneys, bankers, realtors and other financially-related industries. Network often with these resources. Find out if your accounting firm can relate to their clients. Make improvements if you can. (Send them referrals, too. They will remember.)
- Inventory and grade your present clients: Develop an “A-F” grading system for your clients. Look at your entire client base and see if they meet the grade. Determine if any clients are bringing down your firm and are, in fact, a loss or drain on your resources. You will also see who your “star” clients are and who may need more attention than you have been giving them. (Your firm can get a free accounting client grading tool at this link: http://www.aicpa.org/InterestAreas/PrivateCompaniesPracticeSection/QualityServicesDelivery/KeepingUp/Pages/invigorate-the-focus.aspx.)
- Say “Goodbye” to the difficult clients: We all have that difficult client or two on the books who has a tepid relationship with us. Sometimes, in the long run, they are worth keeping. However, in many case, those difficult clients are a massive drain on time and money for your firm. They actually may be taking your time away from your other clients. It becomes necessary for your firm and clients, to let them go. This is not an easy thing to do. It is quite agonizing. But everyone, including the fired clients, benefits. Determine which accounting clients meet the “let-go” criteria and begin the process. You will not regret it.
Retaining clients in these austere, post-recession days requires some homework and time, but it can be done. Follow these steps and see your firm grow.
A.K. Burton, PC cares about all of our clients, whether business or personal. Our experienced and licensed staff can help you, your family and your business make smart tax and investment decisions (http://cpa-maryland.com/services/small-business-services/). Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Buy low, sell high.”
It’s a tried and true investment philosophy. Every stockbroker and financial advisor proclaims it.
Unfortunately, investing in the stock market also means losing money-real money. Every honest stockbroker and financial advisor also tells their clients to be prepared for it, no matter what the insiders say or who is in the presidency or congress. Losses happen.
So, how can you handle investment losses? Does it spell financial ruin? Sell it all to recoup your losses? Stop investing entirely and move to Costa Rica?
No, that is desperate and rarely smart. Here are Five Tips to Handle Investment Losses that Could Hurt Your Finances:
- Accept that investment is a risk: Your stockbroker or financial advisor does not control the market. It is completely out of their hands and quite unpredictable. So, accept that any investment you make is a risk. You will win and lose. If you cannot accept that truth, don’t get involved in it as it will only bring disappointment.
- Claim your investment loss as a “Realized Loss”: This happens when you sell an investment at a lower price than you paid for it. For instance, you may make $1,000 in capital gains but lose $4,000. You may not pay taxes on the $1,000 but your net loss may be used to offset income and you may be able to claim it this year and future years as a loss. (See your licensed financial or tax advisor for more details.)
- Avoid making a “Wash Sale”: If you sell a stock at a loss, only to buy that exact stock back during a 30-day period, it is considered a “wash sale”. If you do that, you may lose the tax benefits of it. Badly-performing stocks you’d like to sell for tax purposes but own again later, you should wait until the wash-sale period ends before buying them back. Bottom line: Cut your losses and move on. Your losses will lower your tax burden and can be carried forward for gains and income in the future.
- Investment in Bankrupt Companies: This one is easy-well, sort of. If you invested in a company that has filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors, you can claim a total capital loss on your tax returns. However, the IRS will need documentation from you on why the stock is now considered worthless. So, make sure you have documents on when it became worthless and that it is of zero value.
- Be efficient in taking losses: Do your best to document and take your investment losses in the most efficient and ethical way possible. The IRS knows and accepts tax losses as a part of doing business in the fickle world of tax investments. Your tax bracket also is a factor in taking losses. For instance, if you are in the 10% or 15% tax bracket, you are not liable for any losses. The main point here is this: keep accurate documentation of all losses so you and your tax advisor have all the information they need to take advantage of all tax benefits coming to you when your risk goes awry. (Please refer to www.irs.gov)
Investment losses can be painful and heartbreaking. However, it does not mean bankruptcy nor does it mean that you depart the investment world. A smart investment loss strategy that you can develop with your financial and tax advisors makes all the difference and will help in the short- and long-term.
Tax and investment advice is one of the many services we offer our clients at A.K. Burton, PC. (http://cpa-maryland.com/services/accounting-services/) Our experienced and licensed staff can help you, your family and your business make smart tax and investment decisions. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at email@example.com
There is a “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer kept advising Jerry that he can use his personal expenses as “write-offs”. Finally Jerry, after hearing Kramer talk off the top of his head about taxes and obviously not actually understanding the topic, says credulously, “You don’t even know what write-offs are, do you Kramer?” Kramer then looks down, sheepishly, and nods his head “no”.
Kramer’s reaction is actually pretty typical. Most people, even though well meaning, have no idea what is a “tax write-off” and what isn’t. They may think something, such as a business meal or an office equipment purchase, are tax write-offs and thus it means they will pay less in business income taxes. But, that may a mistake…a very costly mistake.
So, to keep expectations down, help you to make better small business buying choices and to keep the IRS off your back, here are Five Tax Write-Offs that Require More Scrutiny:
- Business Clothing: Generally, to be deductible, clothing must be required for work and not appropriate for every day wear. Uniforms required for work and protective clothing are obvious examples. Less obvious are items such as polo branded shirts with the Company Logo which may be considered company “uniforms” and deductible as such. Clothing such as blue jeans even though functional as work clothes are not deductible since they are not part of a uniform and are appropriate for every day wear.
- Business Meals & Entertainment with Clients: This one is the most-abused and most misunderstood. Business meals or an entertainment event are tax-deductible if – (i) you are meeting with a client or potential client and (ii) business is discussed before, during or after the meal or entertainment event. More over only 50% of the expense is allowable as a deduction.
- Cell Phone Expense: This one seems to be a definite tax write-off to many small business owners. How can it not be, right? Well, the IRS considers cell phones to be both business and personal use. Only the business part of the expense can be written off, so you have to calculate the percentage of business calls and deduct only that cost. There is also an alternative view – if a cell phone is an absolute necessity to your business – then having the phone could be considered an ordinary and necessary business expense for your business – and the deminimus personal use considered an inconsequential working fringe.
- Business Vehicle Use: Many small business owners use their personal vehicle for meeting clients, traveling to job sites and attending company meetings. A vehicle can be used for thousands of miles in a fiscal year. However, only the business mileage can be deducted. If you have your office outside of your home, commuting to work is considered personal mileage and not deductible. It is a good idea to keep a mileage log for every business trip so you can be accurate in your business expense records. (There are several apps that can be used for just such record keeping.)
- Charitable Organizations: Unfortunately, not all non-profits are equal. That is, they have not been designated by the IRS as a “tax-exempt organization”. (We covered how an organization can become tax-exempt in a previous blog.) There are some social and civic charities which are not 501 c (3), for whatever reason, so any donation to them is only out of your generosity and cannot be counted as a tax write-off. Be sure to check that the organization is tax-exempt before donating to them. Most national charities are known by their brands and are tax-exempt (i.e. The Salvation Army, March of Dimes, etc.) but you can find out on their website or by checking at charitycheck101.org.
There are even more supposed “tax write-offs” we can cover in another blog. Just be sure to call a licensed tax professional or do your own research before assuming your small business expense is going to save you money on your next year’s tax returns. You may be making a serious and expensive mistake.
For more information and experienced business and personal tax advice, contact our professionals at A. K. Burton, PC, at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are almost halfway into 2017. Your small business is doing well and may even be doing better than you had expected. Customers are buying your products, you’re making payroll, you’ve purchased new equipment and you may even be hiring a new employee soon. Business is looking good.
Then, comes the letter in the mail from the IRS.
You owe on your business income taxes! And, it is much more than you thought. You cannot even pay for it right now, even if you put the new equipment and employee on hold.
Now, what do you do?
Don’t panic. It is not the end of your business. There are procedures you can take to resolve it.
Here are Five Steps to Take When You Can’t Pay Your Small Business Taxes:
- Contact the IRS Immediately: Once you get that letter, don’t file it away or stick it in your laptop bag pocket. You may forget it or put it off. The IRS matter never goes away by itself, it just continues to intensify. Even though you can’t pay it now, call the number on the letter and let the IRS know you cannot pay it all by the deadline date. Be honest and open with the IRS official. Document your conversation and create a file where you can put all the documents in, both hard file and computer memory file.
- Pay Whatever You Can: You’ve heard the old saying “Just do what you can.” That works with the IRS, too. Send them a payment of whatever you can, even if it is small amount. That will cut what you do owe down and reduce any fees applicable to the amount you pay. It’s always better to pay something than nothing. The IRS also sees that as a “good faith effort” to pay what you owe,
- Pay in Installments: The IRS may allow you to set up an “Installation Agreement”. This is where you can pay in installments for a certain period of time. Interest and fees may apply but at least you can budget these payments and get it paid off. If you owe 50,000 or less the IRS has a lot of flexibility and will give you up to 36 months. This is a popular way to resolve it, especially for cash-strapped businesses.
- Negotiation in circumstances is Possible: Yes, you read that right. Just because the IRS sent this bill, doesn’t mean you will end up in “debtor’s prison” and life as you know it will end. You may be able to persuade the IRS official to agree to a lower tax debt amount. Believe it or not, the IRS wants this off their books, too. The formal name for this program is the Offer In Compromise. There are set procedures that you have to comply with and you basically have to be insolvent with your financial situation in shambles to qualify. Unfortunately, if you are looking at this option – your business is on the downslide, with the future not looking that bright. That being said you don’t want to be here. The next step down from here is…
- Last Resort: Bankruptcy: Your business is dissolving and you can’t pay the outstanding tax burden. Filing for bankruptcy may be the smartest way to resolve it. This is only for businesses that are closing anyway. Consult a good bankruptcy attorney before taking this action.
The letter from the IRS is no the death knell to your small business. It can cause stress, however, so please don’t panic. You and the IRS want to do the same thing: get it paid off and move on. It can be done! Just take the right steps and keep doing what you and your business do best!
If you need tax advice, both personal and business, please contact our experienced tax and business advisory team at A. K. Burton, PC, for all your personal and business tax and accounting needs. Visit our website at www.cpa-maryland.com or call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
In our previous blog we covered a number of steps you can take to get tax-exemption for your non-profit that you have just created. There are quite a few steps to take so we had to split the blog up into two.
Anyway, let’s continue, here are the next Steps to take to get Tax-Exempt Status for your Non-Profit, Part 2:
- List of directors and employees and compensation: You will have manager(s) of your charitable organization and the IRS wants to their names and how much they will be paid by the charity. Your list should include: initial or starter directors, starter officers (executive director, financial officer, chief executive officer, secretary and others); trustees; top five employees who make more than $50,000 a year and any independent contractors which make $50,000 per year.
- List of beneficiaries of your charitable organization: Your non-profit serves a specific population (i.e. homeless, elderly, youth, religious group, etc.) and the IRS wants to see that specific list to make sure that you are legitimate. Your population served is a crucial part of your underwriting. (Researching the local, state of national population is helpful and having that on hand to submit to IRS should they ask is wise to do.)
- Description of your non-profit activities: Provide a complete narrative of all that you do and plan to do with your charity. It should include step-by-step workflow (without including every detail, that may be too much) of your activities and how you plan to do it with your staff. Make sure the pieces fit. In other words, there is no waste in your processes and the staff members all have a role. (Political activity and gambling are prohibited. Be sure to research that or consult a licensed tax advisor.)
- Data on finances: Any 501 C 3 must provide its last five years of financial records to the IRS for review. Other groups have to show finances for all years they have been in existence for three to four years and in good faith for future years depending on the history of the organization. (For more details check with your tax advisor about Form 1023 and IRS non-profit requirements.)
- Are you a “Private Foundation” or a “Public Charity”?: Typically churches, temples, hospitals, schools, etc. are categorized as “public charities” whereas “private foundations” may be organizations that exist to donate money to causes, individuals and others (i.e. Gates Foundation, Kiwanis Foundation, etc.). There are specific rules, of course, for these too so please consult your licensed tax advisor.
- IRS Fee: You didn’t think you could do this for free with the IRS, did you? They do charge certain fees and there is a list of those fees available online and with your tax advisor. Be sure to include the fee payment with your filing or it will be delayed.
Yes, anything worthwhile takes work, sometimes a lot of work. But, if you follow these steps you may be able to get your non-profit organization up and running.
Contact us if you need personal or professional counseling, from tax planning, to payroll to Business/Financial Entity planning and many other services, A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your personal and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
There are many intimidating processes in the world of charitable causes. Sometimes, they change over time due to new laws passed by Congress and enforced by the IRS.
It can be difficult keeping track. Your accountant should always be up-to-date on these changes, for sure.
However, when it comes to tax-exemption, once your charitable organization has incorporated, it is fairly cut-and-dry, as they say. But, for a review, here is some guidance from a tax advisor on How to Get Your Non-Profit Tax Exemption, Part 1:
- Complete IRS Form 1023 Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code: Ironically, this first step may be the most difficult. This form has a number of legal and tax-related technical prose within it, making it a laborious venture. You may want to seek advice from your accountant as you embark on this first part.
- File for Non-exempt Status within 27 months of Articles of Incorporation: When you file during this time period, your charitable organization’s tax exemption will take effect on the date you filed for incorporation. When you do that, then all donations received will be tax-deductible. However, should you delay incorporating during this 27-month period without a “reasonable cause”, then your non-profit’s tax-exempt status starts the date of the postmark on the IRS Form 1023 application.
- Form 1023 Completion: This long form has eleven parts to it. If you have a smaller non-profit, then you may want to do the 1023 EZ Form Streamlined Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It is quite evident how this form is so much easier for smaller non-profits so go the IRS website and see if your non-profit is eligible.
- Applicant Identification: This is all basic information about your non-profit organization. Your organization needs an EIN (federal employee identification number). Don’t use the old one when you began this process. Request a new on from the IRS as you start this process. It’s actually pretty easy and they send one fairly quickly.
- Structure of the Organization: You need to attach a copy of articles of incorporation and your bylaws. (Just an FYI: If your non-profit is a LLC, unincorporated association or non-profit trust, please contact your tax lawyer. It gets very complicated if you have those designations.)
- Organizational Document’s Required Provisions: You need to add certain clauses to get your 501(c)(3) exemption: a clause stating that your corporation was formed for a recognized 501(c)(3) tax-exempt purpose and a clause stating that that any assets of the nonprofit that remain after the entity dissolves will be distributed to another 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit or to a federal, state, or local government for a public purpose.
There are several more steps and we will cover those in our next blog. If you need assistance with your non-profit’s tax-exempt status, we can take you through the entire process (and help reduce the stress).
Call us at if you need personal or professional counseling, from tax planning, to payroll to choice of Business/Financial Entity planning and many other services, A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your private and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
The famous humorist, Will Rogers, once said, “Too many people spend money they earned…to buy things they don’t want…to impress people that they don’t like.”
It is a timeless quote that characterizes so many of us, both personally and professionally. We buy too much, get into debt and find our lives spiraling out of control as our income can no longer support our lifestyle or business.
But this is a New Year. And there is hope. 2017 is here and whatever happened or failed to happen last year is history. You can truly start anew with better financial habits.
So, here are Ten Quick Smart Ways to Save Money in 2017:
- Pay off Debts: This is the most important one of all. Pay off your debts, maybe starting from the lowest to the largest, as quickly as you can. It may mean fewer meals out or holding off on doing vacation this year, but meet with a financial expert and create pay plans to pay them off. Once this is done, you may be surprised at how your life will improve.
- Use Coupons: Just about every grocery store has coupons, most are now in their apps, for their customers. Make a grocery list and use the coupons (or their MVP or preferred customer card) when you buy.
- Brew coffee at home: The fufu coffee beverages at $4.00 and more, add up quickly on a weekly basis. Buy several pounds of coffee and brew it at home before you leave for work. Treat yourself on Friday with one Starbucks drink or other similar coffee shop. You may save $500 a year just doing this!
- Fill up your car: Gas is expensive, especially in the metropolitan areas. If you can fill up your car instead of getting a few dollars’ worth, you can save quite a bit of money in the long run.
- Buy movies online: Going to see a movie can be $15 per person or higher. Plus, the popcorn and candy adds to the outrageous price. Instead, load Amazon Prime or Netflix to your devices and TV. The yearly price may be less than you pay for one or two movies with the family.
- Combine errands: We travel so much around the Washington, D.C. Beltway! It may take several hours to just run an errand or two because of the traffic. So, save time and money by combining your errands (grocery, gas, appointments, visits, etc.) if possible. Less stress and expense!
- Compare Fees on mobile phone plans: There are many different phone plans now. You may have completed your 2-year contract so look around. There are several vendors which charge only a monthly fee for unlimited usage.
- Eat Out Less: This is a tough one and I can understand the reluctance. Eating out is fun at your favorite restaurants. But this can cost hundreds even thousands of dollars a year. So, eat out maybe once a week as a treat. Save up that money for paying off debts, children’s education or home improvements, etc.
- Keep a Spending Journal: Record your expenses for several months and see where your hard-earned income is going. This is a proven way to cool the spending jets and get on track for smarter spending.
- Volunteer: This may sound kind of weird but hear me out. When you are volunteering and helping the underprivileged in your community it does three things: Makes you appreciate what you do have, gives you an opportunity to share your skills with an agency that is assisting others and, lastly, when you are volunteering you are not out spending. Everyone gains from helping others.
I hope this has been a help to you. Get this year off to the right track by saving your hard-earned money and improving your life and others.
If you need a financial advisor for personal or professional financial counseling from tax planning, to payroll, to choice of Business/Financial Entity planning and many other services, A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your private and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
Audits are one of the many reasons we, as accountants, exist. They are extremely stressful for our clients and can make for an extremely difficult situation, even for the most ethical and detail-oriented small business.
Before we go on, let’s start with what an “audit” actually means: According to www.businessdictionary.com it is a “Systematic examination and verification of a firm’s books of account, transaction records, other relevant documents, and physical inspection of inventory by qualified accountants (called auditors). Quality control: Periodic (usually every six months) onsite-verification (by a certification authority) to ascertain whether or not a documented quality system is being effectively implemented.
In other words, it’s a detailed examination by auditors of a small business’s ledgers, statements and any other accounting records that the business uses. It may take days or months to complete, depending on the depth and volume of records.
So, now that you have an idea of what an audit means, let’s talk about Five Ways your Small Business Can Prepare for an Audit:
- Communicate with the accounting firm directly: The accounting firm doing the audit is not your enemy. They are only there to do the audit and submit a report. They are an objective reporter, not out to “get” your business. So, setting the tone with the firm and asking them for an itemized list of all records and documents needed will benefit you and them. Have them send a checklist which your company can use as an inventory list. Lastly, assign someone from your company as dedicated point of contact. Your staff person should have access to all the documents needed and be a friendly and helpful resource for the auditors.
- Provide a General Ledger: This is usually your Quickbooks account. You can export it to Excel and then send it to the auditor. This ledger will clarify for your auditor what documents they need to audit.
- Provide a Trial Balance: This can also be found in your Quickbooks account. Most auditors depend a lot on this information as all the numbers in your balance are traced back to the trial balance. It should also be on an Excel document.
- Copies of Loans, Contracts and Leases (if any): This one is truly a matter of accuracy. Your auditors need to see long- and short-term contracts with vendors to see if they contract match up with statements (Includes buy-sell agreements, too.) Loans mean any bank-related or other types of loans which were used by your business. Leases, if any, are important as they require the minimum monthly lease payments.
- Board Minutes: This one is often-forgotten but may be a crucial element in the accuracy of the audit report. These board meeting notes contain details on hiring, terminations, acquisitions, sales, statements and other pertinent information from that auditing year up to the present date. All notes including budget and administrative reports need to be included. These documents is one of the easiest to collect, too.
There are more steps to take but this is a good start. We will publish a sequel blog to this one with more details on what to do in the near future.
If you’d like more details on how our company can do your small business audit or assist you with it, contact us at A. K. Burton, PC. We can provide all of your private and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.