As your business grows, the once simple process of bookkeeping can become complicated and daunting. Yet, it’s vital that you have accurate books. If you don’t keep detailed financial records you can end up with problems; unpleasant financial surprises, an audit, forgotten paperwork, missed goals, large bills from your accountant, payroll and tax challenges. Accurate and efficient bookkeeping can help you make and keep long-term goals, smooth out the ups and downs of seasonal cash flow, improve profits and alleviate troubles with the CRA. The following are some tips to help you improve your bookkeeping skills.
- Keep business and personal banking separate: Open a dedicated bank account for your business, preferably one with online access as this makes it easier to make payments and do bank reconciliations. If you need business money for personal expenses, do a regular transfer to your personal account. This will make bookkeeping much easier. Don’t use your personal credit card for work purchases and vice versa.
- Recognize business vs. personal expenses: You need to know what type of expenses can and can’t be claimed against your profit for the purpose of reducing tax. An expense that is directly related to the operation of the business and towards producing income is tax-deductible. An expense that is for your personal pleasure is not. Mixing personal and business does not mean a full claim for business can be made. If you’re in doubt about whether or not to claim an expense, contact your accountant.
- Plan for Major Expenses: Consider what expenses will arise in the next one to five years (upgrade of facilities, new office equipment, peaks in staffing costs, emergencies). By planning for major expenses, you can avoid taking money out of the company during good months and finding yourself short in slow months.
- Utilize bookkeeping software: There are free bookkeeping software packages if you are on a tight budget (Wave, ZipBooks, Akaunting, SlickPie, GnuCash, CloudBooks). If you can afford it, purchase a good quality program that comes with occasional updates (Cashbook, Quickbooks, Xero, Sage, Freshbooks, Zoho). Choose one that is easy to use, customizable, produces charts for quick reference and combines different aspects of reporting from one period to the next.
- Organize and store source documents: Quotes, orders, delivery dockets, sales and purchase invoices, credit and debit notes, payment/remittance advice, cheques, receipts, wage records and deposit slips need to be filed and archived for 5 to 7 years. Keeping source documents at your fingertips makes it easier to prevent fraud in your business, improve your accuracy and ease finding transactions when needed.
- Read and understand monthly reports: Keep your bookkeeping system up to date and produce reports monthly. Learn to read and understand these reports, in particular the income statement and the balance sheet.
- Keep on top of sales invoices: Late and/or unpaid bills hurt cash flow. As soon as a job is complete or a product is delivered, prepare and send out the customer invoices. Put a process in place to track your billing carefully (issuing a second invoice, a phone call reminder, penalties or extra fees). Be organized.
- Know when to outsource: If you find bookkeeping too difficult or don’t have enough time for it, outsource the task. This can be cost-effective and professional help will ensure accuracy. Professional bookkeepers often give great business advice and assist with many tasks (recommend good software, attend meetings with your banker, explain accounts you find difficult, prepare annual budget and cash flow reports, etc).
These bookkeeping tips can help you improve your business, spend less time on finances, focus on growing your company and enhance your customer relationships. Give them a try!
Need help establishing a good bookkeeping system? Looking for business advice? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. We are based out of Calgary, Alberta, serving clients across Canada and the United States. We provide high-quality tax, assurance and succession planning services for a wide variety of privately-owned and managed companies. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.