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Proactive Accounting: What is it and 5 ways it’s good for Business.

June 18, 2010

Picture it – Your Business, LLC, April 14th 20-“you pick the year”. Business is doing relatively great, you’re riding high on the small business/self-employed cloud, there is some cash in the bank, your clients are moderately happy, and you’ve managed to replace your 9 to 5 income. Not so bad for not hiring an accountant or bookkeeper to help you manage things. Well it’s April 14th and you realize that you must file your taxes, ok still not a big deal, I’ll just go to my CPA give him/her my shoebox of receipts and records, and if need be I’ll just file an extension. NOT A BIG DEAL! Your CPA charges you $XXX hundred dollars to file an extension, never utters a word about why you haven’t come to him earlier takes your money and files an extension on your behalf. 1-3 months later your CPA calls you with disturbing news:

“You owe $X,XXX in taxes this year!” Oh and since you are a sole proprietorship you also owe $X,XXX in self-employment taxes” And because you haven’t reported a profit in over 5 years you’ll probably get a notice that the IRS is going to audit your financial records. Ya might wanna also get those contractors to complete a W-9 cause they might want to review that too. SURE we’ll help ya…that’ll be $X,XXX invoice in the mail! See you next year!  à  Channel “Deer in Headlights”

 Ok I may be over dramatizing this, most CPAs and Tax Preparers do not take this drastic heartless detached approach; in fact many of them work tirelessly to encourage small businesses to plan ahead, follow IRS guidelines and actually offer monthly bookkeeping services to businesses to avoid these pitfalls. But the fact remains that a vast majority of small business owners look at bookkeeping and accounting as an afterthought and even put off planning until after they started making money, started incurring expenses and can actually afford to pay for advice and planning. Frankly, you’re not in business to do your books, so why on earth should you care right now? Well as an Accountant, I’m offended (not really), as a self-employed turned small business owner turned entrepreneur, I understand! BUT the truth is hiring a bookkeeper, or CPA or Tax Advisor in the infant stages of your business can save you thousands if not completely save your business if nothing else your sanity!

 “Rear-view accounting” is what we are used to, I call it reactive accounting, it’s what most small businesses do, and what I described above. It’s doing only what’s necessary regarding the financial management of your business and seeking counsel from professionals when desperation strikes. For most micro businesses it’s being your own bookkeeper to keep cost down or “DIY” Bookkeeping. I’m a fan of the latter if money is an issue, but it’s the former that has me nervous. Thus, I’m talking a “radical” new approach to the way small businesses view their finances, I call it “Proactive Accounting”. I was excited when I “created” with this term a few weeks ago, until I Googled it and saw that in fact this is a concept that has been around. The model of YourSimple Bookkeeper is based entirely on the concept of Proactive Accounting whether I invented this or not and hopes to give a fresh take on it and use it to totally change how we look at small business finances and accountants overall (to all CPAs and Tax preparers, I kindly welcome all donations).

 Proactive Accounting is a real simple concept; it’s considering how the financial management of your business affects your business from the inception and throughout the course of managing your business. Proactive accounting involves having your bookkeeper if not your CPA in the front seat with you as your trusted advisor from “Day 0” of creating your business. Traditionally Bookkeepers, accountants and CPAs were looked to only at tax time for payroll or once you were in trouble, but most of my business now-a-days comes from people looking to start businesses and want my advice on the proper steps to do so. Mostly from a “how to I pick the right entity” or “how do I lower my tax bill” perspective, but I use this time to push my agenda of actually getting their books set-up right the first time as well as getting in the habit of reaching out to me on a monthly basis for review. I admit it is a challenge to change the mind set of folks but I’m committed to trying. Instead of doing your books alone, proactive accounting involves tax planning, record-keeping set-up and tracking from the very beginning and including this very expense in your start-up and operating cost if needed. This new approach may make some CPAs uncomfortable at tax time with the onslaught of well prepared clients who no longer need extensions, but with the IRS set to increase its audit of small business particularly those who improperly classify employees as independent contractors as well as the new legislature to enforce 1099 reporting, mileage tracking and self-employment taxes, NOT having your books set up from day one nor having someone on your team can honestly cost you your business.

 5 ways Proactive Acct is good for business:

  1. Can help with potential borrowing – Lenders almost always want to see a well written business plan. Some probably want to also see that you’ve actually started making money in your business already. Having a way to track your expenses and revenues in the beginning and seeking the advisement of a bookkeeper or tax advisor along the way can ensure your books are sound and accurate, something that is crucial to a potential investor.
  2. Can help avoid costly pitfalls – Consider most of us do not realize that the IRS makes modifications or changes to the tax code more often than we know or that there are always new tax law changes in the pipeline waiting to be passed a lot of them recently directly impact micro and small businesses. Having a bookkeeper on your “team” on a consistent basis can help you identify potential troubles before tax time. And alert you when it’s time to take a trip to your Tax advisor, make adjustments to how you conduct business as well as make recommendations to help you save money.
  3. Avoid Cash Flow issues – As anyone who has been in business for at least a year knows is that CASH IS KING. Which in simple terms means knowing where your cash is at all times is paramount to the success of your business. One small business pitfall in cash management is not knowing how their money is being spent or having adequate records of client payments. Having a simple monthly review of your bank and customer records by a qualified bookkeeper can alert you to some potential cash flow meltdowns on the way.
  4. You’re always Audit Proof – Poor recordkeeping is one of the top reasons small businesses fail or get trapped in IRS audits and with 78% of all businesses being small business, it’s true that we are the cornerstones of this country economy. Take it from an accountant, great bookkeeping spills over and improves other parts of your business as well. Example, a client called me one day panicked b/c she was being audited from the ESC for her payroll records (this was a routine audit the ESC performs on businesses under 2 years old). They wanted to see her payroll documents as well as tax returns. They were looking not only if the data was there but how was it kept. Luckily, her financial records and payroll documents were in order and the audit went through without a hitch. Had she had some issues, she would have been faced with steep fines and penalties which for her small business would have cost her everything.
  5. One less thing to worry about! – Like I said above, unless you’re me, you’re not in business to do books so WHY would you want to worry about this? You’re good at what you do and making money doing it and should be able to focus on that. Hiring a qualified bookkeeper on a monthly retainer may seem like an expense you can’t afford, but add up the hours you spend working on your books and look at that as an actual LOSS of potential revenue as you could have spend that same time improving your marketing to drive more business. How nice would it be to know that you can bring home the bacon and someone else is gonna make sure it doesn’t go bad.

 What do you do next? Fortunately there are bookkeepers and accountants out there who offer Proactive Bookkeeping services such as YourSimple Bookkeeper, Inc. whose fees can run as low as $600 annually ($50 a month) for simple reconciliation and review of your books each month. Some can even provide you training on how to manage your own books if you’d prefer that. To get started, I would find a local bookkeeper and ask them if they offer a low cost monthly review service you can utilize, if they don’t give YourSimple Bookkeeper a call for a free 30-min consultation!

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