Want to avoid paying more than you should come tax time? Or a frantic last minute search for missing financial records?
New business owners have a lot on their plate, and can easily lose track of an approaching tax deadline or financial data needed to submit their return.
Organization is key when preparing for tax time. As is taking advantage of the many tools and resources out there to support new entrepreneurs.
Set yourself up for success by following these four pillars of painless tax prep.
1. Commit to clean bookkeeping from day one
Year-round, effective bookkeeping is the best way new business owners can minimize tax season stress. With the wide range of accounting software out there, there’s no reason to rely on time consuming manual methods that leave room for error.
All-in-one options like Xero, KashFlow and QuickBooks automate your most important bookkeeping processes, including:
- Tracking expenses;
- Tracking sales and income;
- Creating and sending invoices and
- Managing inventory.
With your financial records all in one place and up-to-date, you’re better positioned to maximize your refund, while avoiding penalties associated with incorrect or incomplete tax returns.
2. Capture every business expense
Each year, 21% of small business owners claim less than half of their business expenses, largely because they don’t have a reliable system for documenting expenditures while on the go.
Without carefully logged receipts, entrepreneurs must forfeit valuable tax deductions, sacrificing cash they could be funneling back into their business.
Cash in on claimable expenses by using a mobile app to record receipt data, track mileage and generate expense reports. As an added bonus, many of these tools sync with your all-in-one accounting software.
3. Separate business from personal
Right from day one, small business owners should clearly divide their personal and business expenses. Differentiating between the two will make it much easier to claim deductions on your tax return – and support those claims in case of an audit.
Recommended steps to separate your business and personal finances include:
- Create a separate bank account for your business, and designate a credit card solely for business purposes (this will help you track expenditures while building up your credit and borrowing power);
- Never combine business and personal expenses (for example, if you buy printer ink for your home and your business at the same time, ask for two separate receipts);
- Pay yourself a set salary from your business checking account each month (this will help you determine how your income, as well as the business, will be taxed).
4. Always consult with an accountant
Not sure exactly what you can claim as a business expense? Wondering which accounting software to use or how to interpret local tax regulations?
Consult with an accounting professional to put your mind at ease – well before the filing deadline! In addition to managing the nuts and bolts of tax preparation, regular meetings with an accountant will help you continuously improve bookkeeping practices and better understand the financial workings of your small business.
Those organizational strategies you commit to now will promote positive relations with your local tax authorities – and the long-term financial health of your company.
3. Shortcut your learnings from others
I can pretty much guarantee that whatever type of business you’re trying to build, someone somewhere has already done it.
You could try to figure everything out on your own – or you could shortcut your learnings and learn from people that have been in your shoes.
Seek these people out and find ways to work with them. This could be in the form of:
- Partnering (I went into RiskHedge with somebody with a previous track record of success)
This is one of the reasons I founded Clear Accounting – to use my previous experience from RiskHedge to help mentor others.
4. Stay disciplined
There will be long periods where you’re working hard, but it’s not translating to money.
Especially in the early days when you’re starting out building your audience.
Keep at it. Realize it’s all part of the journey. Stay the course no matter what.
5. Doing > reading or watching
I’ve met too many wannabe-preneurs that go from book to book, or course to course, trying to learn the ‘next best thing’ they need to grow their business.
Don’t get me wrong, learning new things is important.
But it’s 100x more important to get to work.
Write the content, send the email, run the ads, launch the partnership, increase your prices. Whatever it is, just do it. I guarantee you’ll learn far more in far less time doing it yourself than reading about someone else doing it.
Hope these ideas help. Until next time,
– Dan Steinhart, CPA
P.S. Did you know that your business consists of a few hidden leverage points that can unlock revenue growth?