6 Ways to Save Your Accountant's Life
Having an accountant for your small business is essential. As a small business owner, you may be used to wearing multiple hats, but unless one of those hats says “finance professional,” it’s in your best interest to pull an accountant you trust into the picture. Too often small businesses try to save money by handling the finances themselves, only to learn the hard way that you’re more likely to lose money due to fees owed or deductions missed.
With tax season upon us, things can be a little cumbersome in the small business neck of the woods--even for an accountant--if you don’t have a clear plan of action. Here are some simple things you can do to minimize the mad rush and preserve your accountant’s sanity.
Separate Business and Personal Expenses
Take a look back and you may find your business expenses and personal expenses have been commingling. To keep things as uncomplicated as possible for your dear accountant, have a separate checking account used only for business deposits and withdrawals, and a credit card for business purchases only.
After separating business expenses from personal, pay personal bills (this includes home expenses) with your personal account, and business expenses with your business account. No exceptions. You may promise you’ll pay yourself back for treating the office to a catered lunch, but will you really? Give yourself one less thing to remember and don’t mix the two.
Keep those Expense Receipts
You’ve bought a lot of things for your business in the past year (I know that new wireless printer was worth it), and keeping a record of those purchases comes in handy when you want to deduct them or if you happen to get audited.
It may seem tiresome, but keeping receipts for every single business purchase will save you and your accountant time and grief. A good rule of thumb is to save everything, including receipts from conference fees and when you wine and dine clients. Your business and the field you’re in will dictate what types of records are necessary, and the IRS can give you an idea of what’s usually required of small businesses.
If keeping track of paper seems like an insurmountable chore, try Shoeboxed. Snap a photo of your receipt or stuff it into a prepaid envelope and drop it in the mail when it’s full. Your receipts will be searchable, sorted, and ready for tax time. The program even integrates with QuickBooks and Gmail to make your life easier. You can even generate expense reports.
Dealing with your receipts on the spot will become a habit in just a few weeks, and once you see how much easier this makes the tax filing process, you won’t want to go back.
Stay on Top of Your Receivables
Scrambling to reconcile customer invoices and payments at the last minute is senseless and avoidable. Why not have it all in order and ready to go for when tax season rolls around?
Reconciling invoices manually as they’re paid can be tedious, so consider using a CRM with financial data integration. A good example of this is Insightly, which now integrates with QuickBooks Online so you can keep track of invoices and payments right from your contact records. Depending on the field you’re in, it’s a good idea to start taking online payments if you’re not already. This will get you paid quicker and help you keep cleaner records of payments received (or not received), making the process a breeze come tax time.
Organize it ALL
You’ve got your receipts and your invoices. But would another human being be able to understand your Ziploc® bag filing system? Would they know where to find something if you weren’t hovering over their shoulder or just a phone call away? While it’s true your accountant could probably figure it out, why not make it easier for him or her and organize it all?
Organize your documents (or categories) by week, month and year. If you’re working off spreadsheets, make sure you’re not using different colors or terminologies for the same item (i.e., don’t use red for outstanding balances one month, and for funds paid out the next. And being specific lets your accountant know the money went to Carson’s Office Supply across town, not Carson’s Deli across the street). If you choose to tape or staple your receipts to a blank sheet of paper and file them that way, or make notes on your receipts such as “Business lunch with Ms. Client” so there’s no question or confusion, then do that throughout the whole year. Or you can go more new school and use simple financial apps to help you stay organized. Whichever method--or combination of methods--you choose, consistency is key so be sure to do it for the entire calendar year.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Accountants are busy people (and an accountant who’s busy is probably good at what they do). Make their job a little easier by not waiting until tax season to contact them and book their services. Tax season won’t be at the forefront of your mind 24/7, but taking the time out early to shop around, make your appointments and secure services will cut stress for the both of you.
Sort Out Your Contractors
If your business uses independent contractors (and pays them $600.00 or more over the course of a year), you’ll need to send them each a Form 1099 so they can report their income and pay their own taxes. But before a Form 1099 can be sent, you must get the contractor to sign a Form W-9. Avoid issues come tax time by sending your independent contractor Form W-9 as they come aboard, and have them sign and return it with their work contract. Also keep track of what you pay them throughout the year. Armed with this information and with Form W-9 on file, your accountant can usually issue Form 1099 without you having to do anything extra.
Though they seem small, these changes can make a huge difference for your accountant, the one who works to keep you all together and out of trouble, year after year. That alone will do wonders for your peace of mind.