In any business, a capable bookkeeper is an essential asset to have.
How to charge late to get paid faster
Studies have shown that customers charged a late fee are 55% more likely to pay
on time in the future. I can show you a way to make attaching late fees a snap so that
you can #GetPaidFaster and minimize the pain of late payments for you and
your clients! Email me at LML@LilianeLarsen.com to request a private consultation
If you have been an attorney for a while, then chances are you have either seen or did business with a client that required IOLTAs or Trust account services. Despite being an attorney and having vast knowledge of the law, law institutions and schools usually train their students very little on to handle an IOLTA account. With inexperience and minimal training, these beneficial services can quickly turn into a liability suit that may end in one being disbarred, if proper measures are not taken. Here are some tips to keep you and your practice out of harm’s way when it comes to these accounts:
1) Know the history of this account. IOLTA stands for Interest on Attorney Trust Accounts. The program was first established in Canada and Australia in the late 1960s and early ‘70s as a way to accumulate funds for indigent legal clients. Soon, word of the program and its benefits spread to the states and is now mandated nationwide, with the exception of Alaska, Kansas, Nebraska, and Virginia.
2) Be knowledgeable about the concept of the account. According to the IOLTA website, these accounts should be used when an attorney receives funds that belong to a client. The attorney must place those funds in a trust account separate from the attorney ’s own money. Client funds are deposited in an IOLTA account where the funds cannot otherwise earn enough income for the client to be more than the cost of securing that income. The client - and not the IOLTA program - receives the interest if the funds are large enough or will be held for a long enough period of time to generate net interest that is sufficient to allocate directly to the client.
3) Avoid common or careless mistakes. While there are many ways that trust accounts can be abused and mismanaged, here are the three most common:
a. Withdrawing funds from the account for personal use.
As an attorney, some may feel that they have the right to deposit and withdraw as they please because they legally manage the account. This however is incorrect. One example would be when an attorney takes money from a trust account before it is rightfully earned. This often happens when an attorney has a cash flow issue. Another example would be when an attorney uses funds from the account to pay for business expenses, with the intent of paying it back. Attorneys who are often in a deep financial bind justify this by thinking that if he/she can’t pay their bills, then they can’t stay in business, which hinders them from even managing the account. Lastly, Trust account theft. In this situation, either the attorney or someone with access to the account, withdraws funds from the account with ill-intent. If committed by an attorney, this usually marks the end of his/her legal career. If committed by the bookkeeper, the attorney is still obligated to repay the funds stolen. This is why hiring a bookkeeper who is reputable and has had many years of experience is necessary.
b. Mixing of attorney and client funds.
This mistake involves commingling attorney funds with client trust accounts. Mistakes such as these are often due to a lack of understanding of how a trust account is managed and its concepts. Wrongdoings include placing personal funds in trust with client funds, using one check for two, separate purposes, and not removing earned fees or repayment from a trust account. All of these instances are considered mismanaged. Mismanagement, intentional or not, is against the rules of many State Bars and may result in disbarment if found guilty.
c. Incorrectly balancing the client balances against the overall account.
In addition to making sure their overall accounts are correctly balanced, attorneys should also ensure that the trust balances of each of their individual client accounts are as well. Attorneys should compare the two together and balance them against each other, as this often reveals errors such as an outstanding check or deposit being overlooked. These easy steps can greatly reduce the chances of un-caught errors that may result in a bounced trust account check.
Still feel Overwhelmed?
Trust account management can be tricky and if done wrong, can result in horrendous legal problems. Most attorneys are already knee-deep in trust account issues and don’t have the means to remove themselves from the problem. Googling for help usually brings back weak, irrelevant, or heavy bookkeeping jargon that even most attorneys can’t untangle. Despite this, I have provided a few online resources in which you can lengthen you understanding of the subject.
Correctly managing a trust account can be a hassle, but becoming disbarred over sloppy record keeping is even worse. Attorneys who are having trouble managing their trust accounts should promptly address the problem by getting help from a qualified accountant or from a law practice management consultant.
There has been much debate recently on the state of the economy, but there’s one thing no one can argue with – small businesses are the true engine of global economic growth.
In the past year, 6.6 million people with a dream launched their own businesses, which created more than 1.2 million jobs. In fact, 80 percent of all new jobs are created by small businesses. On top of that, a new generation of entrepreneurs is re-imagining the very definition of what it means to be a small business, with more than 50 million people now part of the self-employed, or “gig,” economy.
Yet, even with all the success of small businesses, we are also entering a period of unprecedented change. Technology is rewriting the small business rule book and ushering in an era filled with both great challenge and also great opportunity.
Here are five trends that I believe we must collectively embrace to compete and thrive in today world:
- Social: Social media is shaping how and what customers want to buy. Small businesses need to make having a strong social presence as foundational as running payroll or checking inventory.
- Machine Learning: Fueled by the explosion of raw data, machine learning is going to turbo charge the speed of business, making customer interactions faster, smarter and more personal. Small businesses will need to tap into this trend in order to meet changing customer expectations.
- Platforms and Ecosystems: The growth of platforms – whether it is Etsy, Facebook or Airbnb – facilitate indispensable connections between parties. This is causing a shift that is empowering small businesses to compete, and often succeed, against much bigger companies.
- Mobile and Voice: We live in a mobile world. On average, we spend five hours a day on our phone, and use them to do almost everything. However, the next chapter of convenience is now upon us: voice. People can talk faster than they can type. Voice will change how customers shop, how we interact with them and the very space we operate in.
- Security: Cyber-criminals now target weakness, not size. Sixty percent of all cyber attacks are now targeted at small businesses. The solution is that there’s strength in numbers. We will all have to work together to ensure our collective security.
I want you to know that we, at Intuit, are working everyday so you can embrace the opportunity these trends present. Whether it is using machine learning to sort receipts, using the QuickBooks platform to seamlessly connect small businesses with accountants or rolling out 30 new security features across the ecosystem – we are working everyday to ensure your continued success.
We’re committed to empowering you to seize the opportunity. That’s why we fall in love with yourproblems, not our solutions. So, our solutions never stop evolving to deliver benefits that help you be successful. That’s our definition of success.
From my perspective, small businesses have never been better positioned for success. It’s vital that we embrace this brave new world of opportunity; the world’s economy is counting on us.
Today, we’re sharing the unique perspective of Stacy Kildal. Stacy is an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor® and a member of Intuit’s® Trainer/Writer Network. She was named one of the CPA Practice Advisor’s “Most Powerful Women in Accounting” (2012-Current), an Intuitive Accountant “Top 100 ProAdvisor” (2012-Current) and one of Accounting Today’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting” (2014) … all of which is simply to say that she knows a thing or two about serving small businesses.
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of clients reach out to Kildal Services, asking me to help them with setup, training, cleaning up their data or monthly bookkeeping, and sometimes, I’m asked to do all of it! Each client was unique; most of them had stellar products and services and were fantastic at making or providing those items. Some have succeeded wildly, and some are just, well … gone.
In my experience of working with hundreds of small businesses over the years, I’ve seen a few common traits for those owners who made it through the ups and downs of the first few years and have remained successful. They all did the following, so if you want a shot at being part of the 50 percent of small businesses that survive, take a minute and ask yourself if you are doing these things:
- Delegate until it hurts: Recognize that if you are going to make it, you cannot do everything yourself – and you shouldn’t. The ones that succeed surround themselves with great people and let them do what they do best.
- Work with accounting professionals: We’re here to help. Really. Find a local bookkeeper, tax preparer and tax attorney you trust, and use their expertise to help ensure your business is set up properly, compliant, and keeping accurate and timely records. We know you started a business that was your passion, and we know that taxes and compliance are not your passion – but they are ours. Really.
- Pay attention to the data taken from that record keeping: Make sure you are currently managing the business to meet your goals, and to guide you as you make future planning and decisions.
I recently did a webinar for the wonderful people at SCORE.org. I spoke to the attendees about that last item and about Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, that can be used to gauge the health of their businesses. What the heck is a KPI? It’s just a tool that measures how you are progressing toward your goals. And, yes, you have to have specific, measurable goals in order to know how you are progressing toward them! Don’t laugh; I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had that only look as far ahead as the end of today – and call that business planning!
We discussed the four critical questions business owners need to ask themselves in order to find out whether they’re in the black or just in the dark:
- What key numbers/indicators should I be looking at?
- What do they mean?
- How can I use these numbers to guide my day-to-day decisions?
- How can I stay tuned in on the health of my business?
One of my first clients told me the best thing I ever did for them was translate what his previous accountant had been telling him into REAL ENGLISH. For months, the accountant instructed him to look at a series of reports to see how his business was doing, but the accountant was speaking in “Accountanteze” and never explained how to decipher what the data in the reports was trying to say. Sometimes, the data is SCREAMING to a business owner that there is a problem, but if the owner doesn’t know how to read them, the message and warnings go unnoticed. My client said he was too overwhelmed and intimidated to say that he just wasn’t quite getting it.
Whenever I do training with small business owners, I always try to give real examples of how product features in solutions, such as QuickBooks® Online or reports, can guide your business strategy and key decisions. There are 10 key performance indicators that will answer those four critical questions that monitor the health of our business, essentially helping you discover if your business is in the black or you’re just in the dark.
The 10 key performance indicators that are most important to you are:
- Revenue: The income your business has earned from the sale of your goods and services.
- Cash Flow: The money left over after subtracting expenses from revenue.
- Current Ratio: Your ability to pay your bills.
- Cost of Goods Sold: Any direct costs incurred in producing products that were sold during a specific period.
- Gross Profit Margin: Money left over from revenues after subtracting the cost of goods sold.
- Net Profit: The bottom line, as in the amount of income left over after you’ve paid all of your bills.
- Net Profit Margin: What percentage of your revenue was profit.
- Aging Accounts Receivable: What your customers owe you, sorted by date.
- Total Inventory: All of the products your company has: raw materials, work in progress and finished goods that are ready to be sold.
- Profit and Loss Statement: Snapshot of your company’s income (sales and revenue) minus expenses, during a specific period of time.
You can, and should, use these on a daily basis to keep your business on track to meet your goals and make better decisions – both short and long term.
So, how can you stay on top of all of this?
- Make use of free or low cost resources to help with planning. For example, seek programs such as SCORE and their mentoring program, business tools, and workshops. Seek out your local Small Business Development Center for training on developing business plans, marketing, accessing capital or technology development.
- Find an accounting professional. Intuit has learned that 89 percent of small businesses say they are more successful when they use an accountant (and by accountant, we mean any sort of accounting professional: bookkeeper, CPA, enrolled agent and/or ProAdvisor). We can help implement that business plan, design your back office systems, and keep your books clean and up to date with reliable data.
- Don’t treat your accounting and bookkeeping as an afterthought. Listen to the advice of your mentor or your ProAdvisor, and find an accounting solution that fits your needs, whether it’s QuickBooks Self-Employed, or QuickBooks Online with an inventory app. You can’t get good numbers without good software!
If you’re a small business owner like me, not knowing if your business is in the black or in the dark will keep you up till all hours of the night wondering. By paying attention to your key performance indicators, you’ll know where your business stands today, how to plan and make better decisions for your future, and here’s a bonus: you’ll sleep much better at night!
December has seen a number of big changes for QuickBooks® Online (QBO), including a number of new features and functions to help users get paid faster, work more closely with accounting professionals, and use QuickBooks more efficiently. Here is a rundown of the most recent improvements.
QBO Smart Invoice
Cash is the lifeblood of small businesses If we can help you save money, or even better, help you receive the money you’re owed faster, you have a better chance at succeeding. We recently announced three innovations to help you get paid fast and save as much of the money you’ve earned as quickly as possible:
- An integration with Apple Pay that enables merchants to get paid quickly and easily on outstanding invoices via the newly launched Apple Pay on the Web;
- An integration with American Express Working Capital Terms, which provides short-term loans directly within QuickBooks Online; and
- Mileage Tracker, which finds users $7,000 in tax deductions by auto-categorizing trips as personal or business.
Now, with SmartInvoice, you will be notified immediately about the status of your invoices every step of the way. You’ll know when invoices have been sent, viewed, and most importantly, paid. Spend less time chasing invoices, or wondering if your customers received or read their invoice, and more time running your business and working with customers or spending time with family. Previously this was only available on the QBO Mobile App, but now it’s available in QBO as well. Smart Invoice for the Web helps you get paid faster. Plus, we have eliminated the 50 cents-per-transaction ACH fee, so you can now have your invoices paid with free ACH bank transfers.
New Faster Invoicing Setup Helps You Get Paid Faster
There is a new simplified setup experience for new customers when you start using QBO that will help you cruise through the process and get paid more quickly. The new experience has fewer setup screens, so you can start using QuickBooks and create an invoice in just a few clicks! And, if you select that invoicing is important, QuickBooks will put you directly into the new invoicing setup flow where you can customize an invoice for your business, select how you want to accept payments and send your first invoice just a few minutes!
Looking for a QuickBooks Accountant? Try Find-a-ProAdvisor.com
Multiple studies show that small businesses that work with an accounting professional are more successful than those that try to go it alone. At Intuit®, we’ve known that for years, and have successfully brought hundreds of thousands of small businesses and accountants together over the last three decades. Seamless data integration between QuickBooks and our accounting products such as QuickBooks Online Accountant and Intuit ProConnect™ Tax Online make it easy to view and share data accurately and securely, but how do you go about finding a great accountant in the first place?
Well, we’ve improved the Find-a-ProAdvisor website, a resource designed to help you find qualified local accountants to work with you on QuickBooks and help advise you on your business strategy and key decisions. Improvements include a more prominent “Advanced ProAdvisor” designations and certifications that more clearly demonstrate product expertise to the 700,000+ small businesses that search the directory each year.
A New Streamlined, More Consistent Look Across QuickBooks Products
QuickBooks Online also received a makeover, and we’re thrilled to share that through input from customers and real world testing with users, it’s proven helpful in making it easier to find and use the features and functionality you use most in QBO, QuickBooks Self-Employed, Payroll, Payments and other products. Click here to see more about the changes.
We continually update QBO based on customer feedback and suggestions in an effort to make it better, faster and fuel your success. To review our previous November changes, click here. Visit the QuickBooks Online blog often for continuous updates, thought-leader articles designed to help you improve your business and much more.
The IRS released 2017 adjustments to more than 50 tax provisions as well as providing updated tax rate tables for individuals, estates and trusts (Rev. Proc. 2016-55). These revisions will be used for both tax preparation for 2017 and tax year reporting due in 2018. The bullets below are highlights from the list that would be of interest to a majority of taxpayers.
For the standard deduction for married taxpayers filing joint returns increased slightly to $12000, a $100 increase over 2015 and 2016. Single and married taxpayers filing separately will also see a slight increase to $6,350. Heads of household will also see a bump from $9.300 to $9350.
The highest tax bracket of 39.6% saw a moderate increase from $466,950 to $470,700 per year. Single taxpayers are subject to the 39.6% tax rate on income over $418,400, an increase of $3,350 over 2016.
The maximum earned income tax credit amount for 2017 is $6318 for taxpayers filing jointly who have three or more qualifying children, up from a total of $6,268 of 2016.
The Alternate Minimum Tax exemption amount for tax year for 2017 is $54,300 and begins to phase out at $120,700 ($84,500 for married couples filing jointly for whom the exemption begins to phase out at $160,900).
FSA Contribution increases from $2550 to $2600, Carryover rates remain the same at $500.
Transportation accounts which apply to transportation in a commuter highway vehicle and any transit pass continues to be limited to $255 per month. Parking remains at $255 per month.
Health Savings Accounts will see a $50 increase to a maximum of $3,400 annually. Family contribution limits remain the same for 2017 at $6,750.
‘High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) as defined under 223©(2)(A) as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,300 for self-only coverage or $2,600 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,550 for self-only coverage and $13,100 for family coverage.”
The penalty for not having essential health insurance remains at $695.
There are of course, more changes than what’s posted here, so please talk with us for a more in-depth conversation about your specific tax situation.
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1. Falling Behind in Entries and Reconciliation
Time is definitely not on the side of the small business owner, especially when there may be daily fires to put out. Suddenly, months have passed without making any entries in the books nor reconciling any business checking statements, credit card statements, sales tax accounts or other types of financial accounts. This means financial statements and reports are not current. Without up-to-date information, it is challenging to make sound business decisions.
For example, spending money may result in a negative balance or reduced profitability because unpaid invoices have gone unnoticed. Not entering financial data can also lead to problems with suppliers, where invoices to be paid may go unnoticed, leading to problems in getting materials or even a bad credit rating for the business.
2. Struggling to Be Accounting Software Savvy
In a rush to get the business set up, some business owners may not have spent time to properly learn the accounting software they selected. Not knowing what the accounting software is capable of doing means you could easily make a mistake or miss out on some powerful functionality. Not setting up a software system correctly could also lead to unused reporting capability and incomplete information that results in bad business decisions.
3. Not Seeing the Reports for the Tools
Accounting is not just a tool for entering financial data in order to fulfill state and federal tax regulations or tell you how much money is in the bank. Instead, accounting is a powerful mechanism that provides answers to questions related to how a business owner’s strategic decisions are working or not working.
That’s why a big mistake is not using the plethora of business reports that can be made from the financial data, including accounts-payable aging, accounts-receivable aging and reports about company profitability. These reports can show where issues are, including determining where clients are not paying in order to maintain cash flow. If these aging reports are not produced, a business owner will not know who is behind on payments and may miss clients who are not happy with quality.
4. Mixing Business and Personal Finances
One of the most common accounting mistakes business owners make is to mix their business and personal finances. Keep these separate and distinct to provide a more accurate track record of what was really used for business and what specifically related to personal use only.
For example, while the IRS can understand that a certain number of meals throughout a month might be business-related, those tickets to a concert or video games on the business credit card clearly do not. The business can also be impacted because more money is being spent on the owner’s life rather than being reinvested to grow the company.
For these reasons, it is better to maintain separate accounts in order to mentally and physically look at the business as a separate entity rather than an ATM. In the long run, this will help the business to grow and still provide a business owner with significant income.
5. Trashing Receipts
Paper trails still count, but even those can become digitized. However receipts are kept, the point is that they need to be retained. Receipts provide answers to any mistakes or gaps in accounting records, and many offer additional deduction opportunities come tax time.
Even more importantly, if the IRS comes calling, those receipts deliver proof to validate the numbers on financial statements. Not having those receipts means the IRS can deem those entries as invalid deductions, changing tax amounts and potentially leading to penalties.
6. Making Math Mistakes
In the rush to get the books done after a long day, math mistakes can happen quite easily, even when using automated accounting solutions. Math mistakes can also result from posting entries to the wrong account or even just making typos.
Combine that with Accounting Mistake No. 1 on the list, and this can be a recipe for financial disaster because these math mistakes can then go unnoticed for months if not regularly checked for accuracy. Suddenly, one math mistake results in a tangled web of accounting errors, leading to bigger problems.
7. Focusing Only on the Short Term
With the day-to-day issues of running a business, it is easy to fixate on the short term and completely forget about the future. Accounting, however, is not just keeping track of today’s numbers. It’s also about forecasting future growth and identifying any financial risk from current financial decisions or results.
With the need to look to the future, there are many issues to consider, including long-term accounting issues and opportunities for company growth. Also pay attention to any related operational concerns, such as the need to add more accounting staff to handle the growing business. For example, a business owner may add a new subsidiary that makes different products or add locations in other countries.
8. Hiring the Wrong Person
Whether it is a family member, an inexperienced office temp or even the business owner who hires themselves to do the accounting, the wrong person can create financial problems that go beyond just making uninformed decisions. In fact, trying to save money or help a loved one out can actually lead to audits or penalties. Hiring the wrong person can create issues that haunt your business for many years to come.
This can occur if the person hired does not know how to classify expenses correctly or create accurate journal entries. He or she may not have knowledge of tax laws, including what can be included in the accounting for a business and what must be kept separate. He or she may also not be familiar with invoicing or currency exchange when accounting for business elsewhere in the world.
The right accounting professional can help a business owner to avoid errors that are detrimental to the business. These inadvertent errors could include the type of accounting method used, such as cash versus accrual, as well as mistakes related to interpretation of facts about assets, bad-faith estimates that involve unrealistic conclusions about specific assets and incorrect recognition related to accrual of expenses.
9. Thinking Technology Is Always the Solution
Throwing money at technology does not guarantee accounting mistakes will be avoided. After all, you still need to make the technology work correctly. Also, not all technology was created equally or is relevant to a specific businesses.
For example, a small business owner does not have to invest in expensive enterprise accounting systems, but can likely utilize a system that works well with simpler financial statements and be able to scale as the business grows. Therefore, it is important to select the technology that matches the individual need and application for a business. This is where good planning, strategic thinking and research become invaluable to ensure that technology does not add to the accounting mistakes.
10. Not Letting Go
As a business owner, it is tough to admit when the Superman or Wonder Woman cape doesn’t fit, but there are situations where not getting professional help is a major mistake. It is okay to admit that accounting may not be your area of expertise.
You likely started a company with a great idea or solution that had nothing to do with accounting, and that is where you should focus. There are accounting professionals out there that can handle invoicing or other accounting functions in order to let you concentrate on what you do best. As the business grows, there is a time to migrate from the DIY approach and to utilize other responsible parties, including an accounting professional.
The financial side of running a business can make or break your company. Learning when to use tools or professionals to help in areas you struggle with can be one of the biggest issues for business owners. For more tips on how to improve your accounting, see the article on the seven accounting formulas business owners need to know.
LILIANE LARSEN, OWNER
In 2001, Liliane Larsen started her own successful contract bookkeeping company for businesses in the Boston and South Shore area. Liliane has the equipment and capabilities to complete your work virtually from her own office, or she can work at your location.
She helps businesses accurately manage their books and prepare them for tax filing. Clients have praised Liliane for her technical and practical knowledge as she has created streamlined bookkeeping systems for them that have replaced conventional, painstaking record keeping methods with an improved and current process that is efficient, time-saving and precise.
You can feel confident that you will be working with a trustworthy professional who concentrates on attention to detail, follow-through, and keeping your records 100% accurate and current. Liliane will be part of your team.
Liliane received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Business from Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. Following college, she worked at Citibank, NA in New York City in the Private Banking Division and the International Private Banking Division on their Brazil/Portugal desk. After leaving Citibank, Liliane was the 2nd Vice President in the Private Banking Department at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City.