Tag Archives: small business accounting

Ask your Financial Advisor: Is an LLC the Right Fit for my Small Business?

Fall is here. Leaves are falling. Pumpkins are out. Halloween Costumes are on sale. Bags of candy are available. Coffee shops are offering pumpkin spice latte’.  

What a great time to get an LLC for your business!

Okay, maybe there is no correlation with fall. But, it’s still a great time of year to set up and LLC. Let me explain: Tax Year 2018 ends December 31, so there is still time to get it done and affect your tax returns for good, perhaps.  

small business LLC AK Burton PC

First, let’s explain what an “LLC” is: An LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), according to www.Chron.com, is “owner’s liability protection against company actions and debt similar to a corporation. However, a LLC’s management can be set up as a corporation or partnership for management flexibility and taxation purposes.”

Second, the benefits of having your small business LLC designation are quite attractive:

  1. Have your taxes withheld throughout the year: Instead of having to pay a lump sum at tax time or installments throughout the year, you can have your taxes withheld throughout the year. An LLC gives you the option to have a “Flow-through Entity” meaning you become an employee of your company and pay taxes from each paycheck.     
  2. A “One-person LLC Form”: Your business is taxed as a sole proprietorship. This adds limited personal liability exposure but keeps crucial tax benefits such as the owner compensation with “distributions of profit” taxed at the individual owner’s lower marginal tax bracket (tax rate applicable to the next dollar of taxable income earned); and pass-through of business losses to the owner.
  3. Estate Planning: An LLC can also be placed in a Living Trust. This can be complex so consult with your tax attorney.
  4. Less paperwork: An LLC is less time-consuming once you have completed the forms and filed them. The money will be taken out of payroll. Fewer headaches and less paperwork means you can tend to your business.

If you decide that an LLC is the best move for your small business, you can file the forms, called “Articles of Organization”, in your state. Filing fees range from $100-$500.

Before any major financial or business decision like filing Articles of Organization to set up your LLC, give us a call. We will consider your unique needs and discuss if an LLC suits you. A.K. Burton, PC specializes in helping our small business clients structure their business to maximize benefits to the parties involved. Having an attorney/CPA on staff allows us to give our clients the most value for their money spent. Even after we have set up your business, we are always serving your business needs.

From filing the paperwork to form your business, filing taxes, business advice, and closing your business; we are a one stop shop. We serve the Bethesda, MD and Washington, D.C area. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.  

Wake up and smell the coffee!: Small business accounting services that your accountant has-and you should be using

“Shoot, if I had only known!”

How many times have you said that to yourself. If you had only known that your favorite restaurant had a free dessert Wednesday night or that suit you wanted was half price, yesterday, or that the radio station was giving away tickets to your favorite singer’s concert.

Oh, if only…

It’s a familiar lament but, sometimes, there are second chances to great opportunities. Those opportunities missed are aggravating because you realize that you’ve lost out on something beneficial to your life. However, there is a much more important opportunity that exceeds any dessert, suit or concert ticket. We are speaking of small business accounting, of course.

Your business pays the bills and may even be the main source of income for your employees. It is crucial to your life. Don’t take the accounting and bookkeeping services your accountant has to offer for granted.

As any accountant will tell you, you may understand a lot about bookkeeping, but no one knows everything. Leave that to the professionals.   

So, here is a list of small business accounting services your accountant has and you should be using:

  1. Quickbooks Advice: Quickbooks is always updating, changing and upping its game. It is still the premiere business accounting program. Sometimes, keeping up with those changes can be a chore, if not impossible, during your long work weeks. Your accountant must keep up with the updates as they are probably using it themselves! Utilize their knowledge and expertise on this program and all you have to do is call.
  2. Setting up an Accounting System and Structure: Starting a business is a huge challenge and getting the correct accounting system for your business can be agonizing. There are many choices and many different fees. Do you know which accounting system is best? Most business owners and managers are not accountants plus they have too much on their plate, already. So, contact your accountant. They will analyze your business according to volume of business, number of employees and other factors to help you figure out which accounting system is best for your business. Then, your accountant can help you install it and set it up.
  3. Startup/New Business Consultation: You’ve got a great idea for a new business. You’ve done the research and even chosen a storefront. But, how do you get the financing? Hire employees? Set up payroll? Purchase inventory? Those and many important questions need to be answered. Your accountant can help you make all of these crucial, business startup decisions and get the launch of your dream off right.
  4. Record-keeping techniques: It is imperative that your business keep accurate accounting records. You have to deal with suppliers, employees, vendors, landlords, travel agents, garages, the IRS. That’s no small list of people and agencies who depend on your company to pay them. So, use the best accounting record-keeping methods you can find. Your accountant can advise you on what you can use that will be efficient, affordable and can be used by everyone in your company.
  5. Assistance with registering your company with all the appropriate tax authorities: What is an LLC and should your company be one? Which tax authorities do I register with in Washington, D.C., Maryland or Virginia? Or, should I register with all three? Do I need any licenses and permits to run my business? All good questions and they need to be answered. Your accountant can help you register, apply for the correct permits and licenses.

Did you know that these are just some of the services that your local accountant can provide for you and your company, no matter what its size or if it hasn’t even opened its doors, yet?! Like most business owners, you probably didn’t know it.

Running a business is hard work. Don’t make it even harder. Contact your accountant and have them be a partner in your success.      

A.K. Burton, PC, which serves the Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, MD area, provides all these services and more. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.

 

Five Ways to Better Treat Your Small Business Accounting Clients

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.

clients meeting A K Burton

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.)
  5. 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 info@cpa-maryland.com.

 

 

 

How to Prepare for a Small Business Audit

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: accounting-audit AK Burton PCAccording 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

How to Market Your Accounting Firm

Accounting. Crunching numbers. Balancing expense accounts. Filing tax records.

Blah. Blah.

It seems so boring to many people (though we love it!) Or, perhaps it seems quite routine for others who come to us on a regular basis to file their tax returns or offer estate planning. accounting marketing A K Burton

Whatever the case, accounting, to us accountants who have been in the business since word processor days, does not seem all that interesting in this fast-paced, always-changing digital world. That is what many of us accountants think.

Oh, how wrong that is!

In fact, accounting and bookkeeping can be quite interesting and people do pay attention. (As of this writing a feature film, “The Accountant”, starring Ben Affleck, has been released and is popular in the box office.) It’s really all in how we market it.

And, marketing is what we need to focus on if we want people to purchase our services and build relationships with us.  But, they can’t do that if we market incorrectly or in the wrong venues.

So, here are Five Ways your Accounting Firm can Market its Services to the general public:

  1. Develop and Maintain a Strong Business Website: If they can’t find you, they can’t purchase your services. Every accounting firm needs a website with a detailed list of its services, its staff and its location. Your website should also have well-written copy, updated photos, strong search engine optimization and a contact page. It should also be mobile-ready and can be seen on all devices. Your website is the center of your online marketing.
  2. Create and Manage a Business Facebook Page: Facebook has surpassed 1.7 billion users. It is, by far, the most popular and most used social media channel in the world. It is still free and easy to use. Your firm can utilize Facebook its advantage. By posting quality content every weekday, you are building your brand, engaging your audience, educating your customers and promoting your services. Plus, your Facebook page is a reference point for people wanting to learn your location, hours, services and contact information. Lastly, it can send visitors to your accounting website, too. Facebook is a must for your marketing strategy.
  3. Write a monthly accounting blog: Blogs are perfect (and low-cost) ways to provide permanent and educational content for the public. In your blog (500-1,500 words), you can discuss any accounting topic you want (like ours!). It gives you a channel, similar to social media, in which you can educate, engage and sell to your audience. Just be sure to choose accounting topics and not use them as a way to advertise your services. Once you’ve written it is also easily transferable to all types of channels: blog page on your website, post on your social media, and send in your newsletter and email blasts.
  4. Social Media Ads: There was a time when advertising was expensive and you were never really sure who saw or heard your ads. Well those days are over. You can now advertise on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for very little and still reach hundreds of thousands of potential clients. You set up the campaign dates, create a budget and write the copy. Social media is a bargain and may bring you potential clients who may not hear about you otherwise.
  5. Utilize Online Reviews: Did you know that the more reviews you have on Yelp, the more that the search engines (read “Google”) consider your accounting firm as having a “positive customer experience” with quality content? That’s correct. Yelp.com, the leading customer review website in the world, exists to showcase your business and publish reviews from your clients. If you have at least five reviews, Google may move you up higher in the search engines. Bottom line: Have your clients go there and let people know how well you did (as well as LinkedIn, Angie’s List and others.)

There are many more marketing activities you can do to publicize your accounting services but we will cover them in future blogs. Marketing takes time and money, but done well with a strategy, it can be done.

If your business needs accounting services from tax planning, to payroll to LLC and many other services, A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your private and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974.