Paying bills is never fun, but paying bills you shouldn’t pay in the first place is even worse. There are many risks that can part a small business owner with their hard-earned cash, and here are five to watch out for when it comes to your bill-paying process.
1. Fraudulent invoices
Some companies will send marketing documents disguised as invoices to businesses. You may have to read the fine print to notice it’s not really an invoice. In some cases, it’s simply outright fraud, trying to get you to pay something that is not owed.
Many times, these invoices look official, similar to legal filing requirements, but don’t be fooled. Examination of the fine print can save you a lot of money.
Set up procedures to catch these types of invoices. Managers should be careful not to approve these invoices for payment. Bookkeepers should be trained to question their supervisors about these invoices.
2. Item(s) not received
Three-way matching can prevent paying an invoice for which the goods were never received. Put into place a couple of procedures to prevent this accounts-payable error:
- Have warehouse staff match the shipping receipt to what’s in the shipment when it arrives.
- Have accounts payable staff match the marked-up shipping receipt to the invoice when it comes in. If the invoice shows that more items were billed for than received, a call to the vendor to correct the invoice is in order. The invoice amount should be adjusted on the books and a check can be cut for the reduced amount.
3. Wrong amount
Sometimes the wrong price can be listed on the invoice. If this happens, there may have been a misunderstanding during the sales process. A call to the vendor is needed in this case as well so that a corrected invoice can be issued.
4. Math error
This hardly happens in these days of computers, but it can. All invoices should be reviewed for reasonableness. If it doesn’t make sense that something should cost so much, it probably shouldn’t. In rare cases, a price may have been entered wrong or a computer bug could have occurred.
Spot-checking the invoice’s math can save money if an error has been made.
5. Duplicate invoice
This happens way too often. We may get an emailed invoice; then the same invoice comes in the mail. We need procedures in place to keep it from being paid twice.
Many accounting systems do this automatically, but if one character is off related to vendor name, the system could break down. Review a list of disbursements monthly to make sure payments don’t get duplicated.
Procedures are the answer to reducing accounts payable errors and making sure you pay only the invoices that are truly due.
A great way to make a wonderful start to 2020 is to wrap up 2019 feeling organized and on top of the world. Here’s a checklist of items that you can start on now to make your year-end close go smoother than ever before. And don’t worry if you don’t know how to do some of these tasks – that’s what we’re here for.
- Catch up on your books, especially if you do them only once a year. By doing it now, you’ll be able to get into your accountant faster this time of year and they will appreciate getting the work done ahead of their crunch time.
- Catch up on bank reconciliations in case they are not up to date. Don’t forget your savings accounts, PayPal, and any other cash equivalents. Void any old uncleared checks if needed.
- Review unpaid invoices in accounts receivable and get aggressive about collecting them, especially if you are a cash basis tax payer. Clean up any items that are incorrect so that the account reconciles.
- Write off any invoices that are no longer collectible.
- Ask employees and vendors to update their addresses in your payroll system so that W-2s and 1099s will reflect the correct addresses.
- Collect any W-9s that you don’t already have on file for contractors that will receive a 1099 form from you.
- Collect workers compensation proof of insurance certificates from contractors so you won’t have to pay workers comp on payments you have made to them.
- Collect sales tax exemption certificates from any vendor who has not paid sales tax.
- Decide if you’ll pay employee bonuses prior to year-end.
- Review employee PTO and vacation time and reset or rollover the days in your payroll system.
- After the final payroll runs, contact your payroll software company to make any W-2 adjustments necessary for things like health insurance.
- Set the date to take inventory, and once you have, make adjustments to your books as necessary.
- Write off any inventory that is unsalable. If possible, sell scrap inventory or other waste components.
- Prepare a fixed assets register, calculate depreciation, and make book adjustments as needed.
- Record all bills due through year-end, and reconcile your accounts payable balance to these open bills.
- Make loan adjustments to reflect interest and principal allocations.
- Perform account analysis on all other balance sheet accounts to make sure all balances are correct and current.
- Make any additional accrual entries needed, or if you’re a cash basis taxpayer, make those adjustments as needed.
- Get an idea of what your profit number will be. Choose whether you want to maximize deductions to save on taxes or whether to want to reflect more income. Decide what you can defer into 2020 or what you want to have as part of your 2019 results.
- Match all transactions with their corresponding documents – receipts, bills, packing slips, etc. – to make sure you have the paper trail you need.
- Download your bank statements and store them in a safe place.
- Download any payroll reports and store them in a safe place.
- Scan in paper documents so that they’re stored electronically.
- File any important papers such as new leases, asset purchases, employee hiring contracts and other business contracts.
- Prepare a budget for 2020 and enter it into your accounting system.
- Take a look at the 2020 calendar to determine which holidays you’ll close and give employees a copy.
- Review your product and service prices if this is the time of year you do that and make any changes you decide on.
- Update your payroll system for any new unemployment insurance percentages received in a letter each year.
- Update the mileage deduction rate if that rate has changed at the beginning of the year.
- Set a time with your accountant to go over 2019 results and get ideas on how to meet your financial goals in 2020.
- Review the metrics you’ve been using in 2019 and decide on the list of metrics and corresponding values that will take you through 2020.
- Celebrate the new year; it’s a wonderful time to gain perspective and be hopeful about the upcoming year.
Start 2020 with a bang and this year-end checklist, and feel free to reach out if we can help with anything.
Custom fields in your accounting software are data fields that you can define yourself. They are typically associated with customers, vendors, employees, and items, and they can help you store and categorize additional information about these stakeholders and your products and services in your business.
An example custom field that can be associated with customers is their anniversary date with you. You could also decide to store their birthday, their spouse’s name, their favorite color, or their shoe size.
Custom fields add functionality to your accounting system. Here are a few examples of practical uses for custom fields:
- Staff contact for customer – if customers are assigned a particular staff member, you can add their name in a custom field
- Frequency of service – daily, weekly, monthly
- Warehouse location
- Type of customer; for example, hospitals, pharmacies, retirement homes
- Referring physician
- Preferred method of contact: email, phone, fax, text, chat
- License number
Some software allows you to choose the type of custom field you want to add. In some cases, this allows for cleaner data as the data can be limited to a certain type or certain values upon entry. Here are the most common types:
- Free form text – this is the default type; it can come as a single line or paragraph
- Check box – choose one or more values from a limited number of choices
- Radio button – choose only one value from a limited number of choices
- Drop down – choose a value from a dropdown list
- File upload – add an attachment
- Image upload – upload an image that will be displayed
- Date/time – enter a date or time
- Number – enter a number; it can be currency, integer, or another mathematical type of number
Custom fields allow you to meet your company’s unique needs over and above what the software provides by default. It’s a great way to make your data more meaningful. If you have some ideas for custom fields in your accounting software and want help setting them up, feel free to give us a call anytime.
When you pay a bill in your business, are you 100 percent comfortable that the bill payment is correct and justified? Is there ever a chance that that bill is fake or fraudulent? What about duplicates? With so many fake bills being mailed to businesses these days, it makes sense to think about controls you can put into place to reduce the risk that you might write a check out of your hard-earned profits that should never be written.
Accounts Payable Controls
In the accounting profession, the term “internal controls” refers to processes, procedures, and automations you can put into place to reduce errors. In accounts payable, there is a specific subset of rules and controls you can put into place to reduce risk in this area. Here are just a few ideas.
All bills should be approved by the appropriate level of staff in your business. Sometimes a bill gets approved that is fake or shouldn’t be approved, especially in areas where the approver doesn’t have technical knowledge of what they are buying. Be sure to read the fine print on the bill and make sure you know what you are paying for.
2. Segregation of duties
The person who pays the bill should be different from the person who submitted the bill. These people should be different from the one who signs the check. This reduces employee fraud.
3. Receipt confirmation
A packing slip or other confirmation of receipt of the goods or services should be matched to the invoice, line item by line item.
4. Math check
A prudent step is to check an invoice’s math, at least for reasonableness.
5. Duplicate payments
If a vendor emails their bill as well as mails a hard copy, controls should be put in place (usually automated) to avoid duplicate payments on the same bill.
If there are a significant number of transactions between you and a vendor, an accounts payable reconciliation should be performed each month via a statement.
7. Missing check numbers
Most systems provide a missing check numbers report that you can use to make sure all checks are accounted for.
8. Bank reconciliation
A bank reconciliation is a sure way to see exactly what checks cleared your bank account.
Coding each transaction to the correct expense account, inventory, asset, or cost of goods sold account is an essential part of the process.
10. Income statement review
Each month, a review of the balances in your expense accounts as well as a disbursements ledger review for reasonableness can provide added peace of mind.
11. Purchase order
Requiring purchase orders is another control you can add to your process. Purchase orders should be matched to packing slips and invoices before payment or approvals are made.
12. In-depth knowledge of your business’s numbers
The more you get to know the numbers in your business, the greater chance you’ll have of accurate accounts payable handling.
And if you’d like to discuss your accounts payable function with us and how it can be improved, we’re happy for you to reach out any time.
Buying a Car or Truck for Your Business?
When you purchase a new vehicle, you get the fun of riding around in a new car with the new car smell! Our job has just begun – to get your new asset recorded properly on your books. We thought it’d be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at our part.
The first thing we’ll ask you for is the sales contract. It will give us the payment price of your car, and we’ll use that number to record your new asset on your balance sheet. If you paid cash with no trade-in, the journal entry we’ll make is:
Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4
Then we’ll decide on a depreciation method and book depreciation monthly or at year-end.
Debit: Depreciation Expense
Credit: Accumulated Depreciation
If you traded in a vehicle that is on your books, we’ll need to make an adjustment to your books. Effectively, your old car will be eliminated from your balance sheet. If this asset had a book value and it was not fully depreciated, the net value would be compared to the trade-in value and a gain or loss on the asset sale would be recorded on your income statement.
Let’s say the balance sheet value of the three-year-old car you traded in was $10,000 and you got $8,000 on the trade-in. Here’s what we would record:
Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4
Debit: Accumulated Depreciation
Debit: Loss on Sale of 2016 Car
Credit: Old 2016 Toyota RAV4
$17,500 ($25,500 – $8,000 trade-in)
We’d also start the depreciation for the new car.
New Car Loan
Most often, a new car purchase will be financed, so we have a new liability to record too. We’ll need to get a copy of the loan documents from you and an amortization schedule of the payments. Let’s say you made a ten percent down payment with no trade-in. Here’s how that would look:
Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4
Credit: Toyota Loan
Then, each time you make a monthly payment, the amount will need to be split between principal and interest and those amounts will need to change each month.
Debit: Interest Expense
Debit: Toyota Loan
We left out a few trade secrets just to keep it intriguing. There are a lot of other numbers on a car purchase: taxes, licenses, warranties, add-ons, fees, and more. Some of these can be directly expensed, while others need to be included in the value of the asset. So if you’re happy that we’ll take care of this for you, we’re happy to do so.
Let us know if you purchase an asset this summer so we can get it booked right for you.
Eight Ways to Increase Your Profits
Increasing your profits might sound like it’s an unattainable dream just out of your reach. But there are a finite number of ways that profits can be increased. Once you understand what they are, you’ll have clarity on how to best reach your goals.
There are two primary ways to increase profits:
- Raise revenue
- Lower expenses
That’s not particularly enlightening or instructional, is it? Let’s look at the four ways you can increase revenues and the four ways you can reduce expenses to get clearer on what actions we can take.
Four Ways to Increase Revenue
1. Raise prices
The easiest way to raise revenue is to simply raise prices. However, this is not foolproof and assumes you’ll be able to maintain the volume of sales you’ve achieved in the past.
This method is also limited by market demand, what your customers are willing to pay.
2. Add new customers
Adding new customers is what most entrepreneurs think about when raising revenue. Increasing your marketing or adding new marketing methods is typically the way to add new customers.
Another related option is to work hard to keep the customers you already have. You can also potentially contact the customers you lost and ask them to come back.
3. Introduce new products or services
For some companies, your products and services are changing every year. For others, not so much. To increase revenue, consider adding new products or services that will bring in an additional revenue stream that you didn’t have before.
Even if your products are changing every year, you can consider adding something completely different that your customer base would love. For example, a hair salon could add a nail desk, a clothing store could add handbags or shoes, a grocery store could add a coffee bar, a restaurant could add catering, a landscaper could add hardscaping, and so on.
The final way a business can increase revenue is to acquire another business in a merger or acquisition.
Four Ways to Reduce Expenses
1. Negotiate for a better deal with vendors
If you’ve been working with a vendor for a while, you may be able to re-negotiate your contract with them. This is especially common with telecom companies. Call you phone provider and ask them for the latest deal. They always favor new customers over long term customers, but they don’t want to lose customers either. Just calling them usually yields a better price than what you are paying now.
2. Change vendors
If a vendor has gotten too expensive, it might be time to look for a new vendor. Health care insurance seems to be in this category. Often, changing providers will lower your costs.
3. Cut headcount
If there is not enough work to support your employees or not enough cash flow to pay them, then it might be time for a layoff or restructuring. You might also consider outsourcing a function that you previously did in-house.
4. Cut the expense or reduce services
It might be your business no longer needs to spend money on an expense. Perhaps this expense has been automated. In this case, it’s an easy decision to cut the expense out entirely.
Those are the eight ways to increase profits. Which one makes the most sense in your business? Create a plan around these eight ideas to boost your profit in 2017, and let us know if we can help.
Is There Really a 4-Hour Workweek?
Tim Ferriss made the 4-hour workweek a popular concept in his 2007 book. But is there such a thing, and more importantly, can business owners like you and me cash in on it? As the last of the Baby Boomers approach retirement, the topic of working less while making the same or more income is popular.
Here are five ideas to help you work fewer hours while making the same or more income.
Active vs. Automatic Revenue
Some business models allow you to generate automatic revenue. Automatic revenue is revenue you can earn and leverage over time by doing something only once and not over and over again. Active revenue is earned while doing something over and over again. Showing up for a teaching job with a live audience is active revenue while producing and selling video recordings of the same teaching is automatic revenue.
A goal of a 4-hour workweek concept is to increase automatic revenue while reducing active revenue. You may have to think out of the box to do this in your industry, but the payoff can be huge.
Delegation and Outsourcing
One traditional way to move to a 4-hour workweek is to have others do the work. Hiring staff frees up your time and allows your business to become scalable. When it runs without you, it’s more salable too.
If you have a lot of distractions in your day, you can easily double your productivity by learning time batching, which is grouping like tasks together in a block or batch of time and getting them done. For example, if an employee interrupts you with questions multiple times a day, train them to come to you only once a day to get all their questions handled at one time. Take your calls one after the other in a group, and then stay off the phone the rest of the day. Do the same with email, social media, running errands, and all of your other tasks.
Automation and Procedures
New apps save an amazing amount of time. List all of your time-consuming chores and then find an app that helps you get them done faster. For example, a scheduling app can reduce countless emails back and forth when setting meetings and appointments. To-do list or project management software can cut down on emails among you and your staff. And apps like Zapier can connect two apps that need to share data, reducing data entry.
The key to working less is to embrace the concept of leverage. How can you leverage the business resources around you to save time, increase staff productivity, and improve profits? It takes discipline and change, two difficult goals to accomplish. But when you do, you will be rewarded.
If you’re struggling with your accounting system, it might be a sign that you’re ready for something new. Perhaps your company has grown so much that it’s outgrown its older accounting solution. Here are several indications to look for that justify moving to an accounting system with more features and scalability.
Some companies have a need to limit certain functions to certain users. Most systems come with basic functional limitations, such as restricting Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable functions. But what if you need more granular user permissions such as access to only purchase orders or a certain bank account? Mid-market systems like QuickBooks Enterprise provide those features.
Multiple Companies and Consolidated Financial Statements
Do you have multiple companies that are the “children” of a parent company? You might need consolidated financial statements and the ability to open multiple companies at the same time.
Number of Customers and Vendors
If your business is growing and the number of customers and vendors you do business with exceeds 14,500, you will have reached a list limit in QuickBooks Premier. Each system has their own list limits, and these limits can get complex quickly, so check with us if you feel you are getting close.
File Size and Performance
There may also be file size limits that you need to watch, especially if you have a high volume of transactions or multiple years of history in one file.
You could also have performance issues. If you have a new PC and your accounting system is still running slowly, we can help you improve your performance by condensing your file or setting preferences differently before you have to switch.
A mid-market system like QuickBooks Enterprise provides advanced features, such as tracking inventory in multiple locations, using the FIFO method, and managing lots or serial numbers. If you need these features, it may be worth it to switch.
Most mid-market accounting systems provide better customization such as additional custom fields, better reporting, and improved form design.
Number of Simultaneous Users
The final reason to switch to a larger accounting system is if you need more simultaneous users. QuickBooks Pro allows for up to three simultaneous users, QuickBooks Premier handles up to five, and QuickBooks Enterprise makes room for up to 30 simultaneous users. QuickBooks Online allows up to 25 simultaneous users. Check with us if you are curious about your system’s license limits.
Did any of these reasons resonate with you? If so, let us know so we can discuss your needs.
What’s Your DSO?
If you grant credit to customers, then you have a balance in accounts receivable. DSO stands for Days Sales Outstanding, and this helps you measure how fast your receivables are being converted to cash.
Here’s how to calculate it:
DSO = Accounts receivable balance / Annual net credit sales * 365.
DSO is measured in days and it represents how many days it takes to collect the customer invoice balance and convert it to cash.
Whether the DSO measure is “good” or not varies by industry as well as the terms you’ve set for your clients. If you’ve set your invoices to be due in 30 days and your DSO is 45 days or less, that’s pretty good. If you’ve set your invoices to be due in 10 days and your DSO is 60 days, then you might want to consider a more aggressive collection policy to speed up your cash flow.
Here are some tips to reduce DSO:
1. Invoice clarity.
Make sure your invoices are accurate and clear. Make it clear whom to make the check out to, where to mail it, the due date, and the amount due. All of these features should be easy to find on the invoice.
2. Consider discounts.
A common discount term is 2/10, net 30. This means the customer can take two percent off their invoice if they pay in 10 days; otherwise they owe the whole amount in 30 days. If you have customers from large companies, discounts are often required by policy to be taken and this can speed up your payments from them.
3. Consider electronic payments.
Going paperless with your invoicing as well as your payment process can speed up the entire billing cycle. Customers getting their bills earlier will also pay earlier.
What’s your DSO? If you need help calculating it, give us a call.