Five Cash Leaks to Avoid

June 13, 2013 · Posted in Business Development, Business Tips, Cost-Saving Tips · Comment 

Cash flow improvement is a hot issue for small businesses; in many businesses, it seems like there is never enough cash when you need it.  The last thing a business owner wants is to reduce their cash balance unnecessarily.  To help you preserve or increase your cash, here are five cash management leaks to avoid.

1. Bloated Bank Fees

Some banks are more business-friendly than others.  We recommend you assess the fees you are currently being charged to see if you can discontinue any unnecessary services.

  • Could you maintain a cash balance to avoid monthly fees?
  • Are you being charged online banking fees and bill pay fees, and are these still necessary?
  • Are you being charged for a high volume of transactions or cash drawer services, and are these competitive with other banks?

Banks, including national brands, that have not kept up with technology and have not automated a significant amount of their transactions are inefficient and must charge higher fees to cover their processing costs.  If your accounts are located at one of these costlier banks, you do have a choice.

2.   Overtaxed

Are you sure that you are paying the lowest amount of taxes you legally owe?  There are several places to look to make sure you have not overpaid taxes anywhere in your business or personally:

  • Payroll taxes
  • Sales and use tax
  • Franchise taxes
  • State and local income taxes
  • Property taxes
  • Federal income taxes
  • Taxes that are specific to your industry

In preparing income taxes, a few of the easiest items to overlook include carryovers from prior years and new deductions you become eligible for.  If you received a large refund this year, congratulations, but that means you gave Uncle Sam an interest-free loan on your money.  You can do better next year by estimating your tax payments and paying only what’s due.

3. The Check Is in the Mail

Customers who take too long to pay you are big cash drains in your business.  Consider changing your terms, asking for deposits, or becoming more aggressive with collections to bring your DSO (days sales outstanding) down.  When you do, you’ll get an instant, permanent cash flow improvement.

4.  Sweat the Small Stuff

You may have an eagle eye on your largest bank account, but what about your other cash stashes?  PayPal, petty cash, and business savings accounts are among the places that may not get daily scrutiny.  Make sure those accounts are properly reconciled and have the proper controls in place so funds don’t go missing.

5.  It’s in Your Interest

A nice problem to have is when your bank balances get too large and you don’t need the money immediately.  Make sure that money is still working hard for you by putting the excess in an interest-bearing account.  It’s not much these days, but every little bit helps.

Make a Dash to the Cash

If we can help you plug any of these cash leaks in your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know.

 

The Fine Art of Prioritization

Running a business usually means putting in over 40 hours a week.  In fact, if you’re the typical entrepreneur, you have more ideas you want to implement than you have time for!  That’s when proactive, strategically executed prioritization can make all the difference.

So Hard to Choose    

If you have lots of ideas in your head or on your “to do” list that are not getting done, you’re certainly not alone.  Here’s a process for helping you decide what to do first, next, and not at all.

Step 1:  Write down all your ideas, tasks, “to do’s,” projects, and even items you need to do on a daily basis.  Use a spreadsheet and list each item in a row by itself.  Later you’ll want to be able to sort the list, so we recommend using Excel or another spreadsheet software.

Once you have everything down on paper, you will be amazed at how much this unclutters your thinking.  You will also have all your great ideas captured so you don’t forget them.  You might also get very overwhelmed, but don’t stop now.  Relief is on the way.

Step 2: Add some information about each item, creating four additional columns:

  1. Is this item about working IN your business (client work, overhead, etc.) or ON your business (new products or new services, developing procedures, hiring more staff, marketing, creating new partnerships)?
  2. Is this item revenue-generating?  Or will you lose revenue if you don’t get it done?
  3. Can you delegate this task or does it have to be done by you?
  4. If you were to hire someone to do this task, how much would it be worth per hour?

Step 3:  Analyze your choices.  Once you have these additional items filled in, you can go wild with opportunities.  Here are some very cool eye-opening activities to try:

  • Separate tasks that are working ON vs. IN your business.  There is never enough time to work on your business, so force it by blocking out a few hours or a half-day a week and do it, no matter what.  It might be the best way to make progress in your business.
  • Sort the list by how much revenue the task could generate or how much potential it has, and decide how to prioritize from there.  If you need help calculating the ROI, return on investment of an idea, we can help you calculate that.
  • Take a look at what you marked “not able to delegate,” and ask “why not?”  Does a procedure need to be written?  Do you need more staff?  Does your staff need training?  Or do you need to learn to let go?  Whatever it is, and especially if there are a lot of these items, get these roadblocks tackled so you don’t become the bottleneck in your own business.
  • Sort the list by “column D” above, the market value you recorded for the task.  Then ask yourself what your hourly rate is.  How many tasks are you doing that are below your hourly rate?  Hiring someone to do your lowest level tasks could very well be another item you need to add to your new “to do” list!

This last one is really important, because it can so strongly affect the profitability of your business.  The last thing you want to do is go backwards and give yourself a demotion with a pay decrease, but that’s exactly what you’re doing each time you do a task yourself that’s at a low market rate.

Step 4:  Prioritize with confidence.   With all of this information in an organized spreadsheet, you will gain the clarity you need to make some powerful decisions about how to spend your time.

Time

There’s nothing more precious and scarce than our time.  Every day, we have a choice about how to spend it, but too often we get caught up in the urgent, but not important, daily fires.  This exercise helps us take a step back and look at what’s important instead of what’s urgent.

Seven Strategies to Put the Spring into Your Sales

Spring is here and that’s the perfect time to try something new in your business to make things fresh.  Here are seven ideas to try in your business; pick the one that’s most likely to put the spring in your sales.

1. BOGO

“Buy one, get one” or BOGO deals are always hot and never grow old.  Even if it’s not common in your industry, see if you can adapt and create a deal like this.  The best thing about a BOGO strategy is it spreads more of your product or service around to a wider customer base, which can spur referrals or word-of-mouth, the best kind of sale.

Here’s an example of a BOGO applied to a service: Purchase a seat at a training workshop and bring a co-worker at no extra charge (or charge the price of materials and lunch to cover costs).  You can also offer one month free (cheaper than offering 10 percent off on an annual basis) if you have a service that is performed over time.

 2.Weekend Sale

Sales can move a lot of people to action.  The key is to limit the time that they can get the discount to a very small window.  Hold a time-limited sale when it is slow for you (could be during this month when people are hit with tax bills) to boost your volume.

 3.Freshen Up Your Displays

If you have a storefront, when is the last time you’ve freshened up your look?  Retail businesses work hard at this, but even if you aren’t in retail, take a look at what the customer sees.  Is it inviting?  Fresh?  Pleasant?  If not, do some spring cleaning!

If you work from home or have a virtual office, your website is your storefront.  See if it needs some spring cleaning so that you look more attractive to your prospects and clients.

4.Introduce New Features

Make a slight change to your existing product by adding a new feature, offering it in a new color, or something similar.  It will feel a little fresher to your clients, which may cause an increase in perceived value.

 5. Start a New Niche

Once you’ve gotten a couple of clients from a new industry, you’re off and running.  You will be able to learn from working with this new industry, and then you will be more valuable to others in that space.

Take a look at your client list, and see where you have just a few clients in the same industry but would like more clients like them.  Then go for it!

6.Flavor of the Month Club

Baskin-Robbins used to have a “flavor of the month” so that customers would be enticed to come into their ice cream shops over and over again.  You may be able to have an “item of the month” or even a VIP club where your customers get something new each month.  Your VIP Club could also include priority treatment with specials or discounts.  VIP clubs done right are especially effective in restaurants and retail, but can work in other industries too.  The goal is to increase the frequency of visits to your business by enticing clients to become regulars.

7.The Biggest Opportunity of All

We often overlook the top opportunity that’s under our own noses:  our current and past clients.  They trust us the most, which is the highest hurdle to new business.  If you haven’t contacted your top clients in a while, make a point to reach out.  More sales could be just a phone call away.

Now it’s time to spring into action on the one idea that resonates most for your business.

What Is Cloud Accounting?

One of the most exciting changes in the accounting industry is cloud accounting.  The concept is easy to grasp:  cloud accounting simply puts your accounting system in a private space online so that it is fully accessible to you via a browser or a secure remote connection.

Two Ways to Be in the Clouds

There are primarily two ways to have your accounting system in the cloud.  First, it can be “hosted.”  This means that the current software you are using on your desktop, such as QuickBooks or Sage, does not change.  Neither does your company file.

The only thing you do differently once it’s set up is click a different icon to start the software.  Once you log in, most everything else is the same.  There are a couple of differences in printer access, Microsoft Excel® access, and some of the other interfaces, but it’s essentially the same experience.

So if it’s the same, why would you want to move to the cloud?  Because it completely eliminates the passing back and forth of the file among you, your CPA, your bookkeeper, and anyone else that needs to update or access your accounting file.  No more restores.  No more DropBox or YouSendIt downloads.

Hosting saves a ton of time because the people you grant access to can login to your file from anywhere.

The second way to have your accounting system in the clouds is to switch to an online accounting system.  In industry jargon, this is called SaaS, which stands for Software as a Service.  Examples of online accounting systems include QuickBooks Online, Xero, Wave, and Kashoo.  These systems have fewer features and will only be right for a client with a need for a simpler accounting system.

When you switch from desktop accounting software to SaaS, it will likely require conversion, setup, and training.  It’s a major change.

Benefits

There are many benefits to moving to the cloud; here are just a few of the more common ones:

  • Anywhere, anytime access to your accounting system.  Companies with multiple locations will benefit significantly from a hosted solution.
  • No more worrying about who has what version and whether the changes the accountant made were updated or applied.  There is one central file, and multiple people can be accessing it at the same time as long as you have the right number of user licenses.
  • No more software updates that you have to apply yourself or wait for.  This is done by the hosting provider or the SaaS.
  • Tighter security for your data.  The data centers typically have multiple state-of-the-art data security controls and must pass a rigid audit, which is far more protection than any small business can afford to provide for their own data.
  • Automatic offsite backup for disaster recovery purposes.

Concerns

Clients’ two major concerns include security, which is covered above, and costs.  When it comes to costs, the most important thing to look at is return on investment.  Will the time you save be of greater value to you than the costs of hosting or moving to a SaaS?  That answer varies for each client.

Curious About the Cloud?

If we’ve piqued your curiosity about cloud accounting, please feel free to reach out so we can continue the conversation.

Is Your Data Backed Up? Seven Often-Overlooked Places

March 21, 2013 · Posted in Business Development, Business Tips, Management Tips · Comment 

Hopefully, you’re already making backups of the data on your business server on a regular basis.  It’s simple to set up data backups automatically and then forget about them until you need them.  But have you ever looked around to see if there are any gaps in your backup strategy?   Here are seven places to look to make sure all your business data is backed up safely.

 1.Online Calendar

Do you use an online calendar?  If you use a calendar such as Google Calendar, then it’s a good idea to keep a backup in case something happens to it that’s out of your control.

In Google, go to Settings from the Settings menu, click the Calendars tab, and Export your calendar to get your backup.

2.Website 

It’s common for business owners to rely on their webmaster to have a backup of their website, but this is often not within the scope of the webmaster duties.  Check with your webmaster to get a backup of your website files so that you are protected against hackers, hosting problems, and more.

If your blog is in the same place, make sure you have a backup of it as well.  You may also want to preserve any online profiles you have in the same way.

3.Your Email

We are so dependent on our email these days that we should consider backing this file up daily, if not hourly.   The location of your email file varies, and some people have more than one.  It’s worth double-checking to see if this file is included in your regular backup routine.  You may also want to create a separate, more frequent backup routine for this critical file.

If you have an online email account, make sure you have a backup of all those emails in case something goes wrong.

4.Browser Data     

Browser-related data, such as your bookmarks, history, toolbar, and saved passwords are all stored in files, but they can be hard to find and recover.  If something happens to your browser data, it may or may not be a big deal.  If it is, include these files in your regular backup so you can recover what you need more easily.

5.Online Bank and Vendor Account Information

If you get audited by the IRS, it’s almost always for a year in the distant past.  Digging up invoices you might have had online access to but no longer do can be time-consuming and painful.  Most banks and vendors have made it super-easy to download PDF versions of your invoices and statements, so be sure you do that before your access to them expires or becomes an extra charge.

6.Local and Cloud Drives 

Every business’s technology setup is different.  If you have a server, chances are you’re getting it backed up regularly.  If you have employees, make sure each of their hard drives are backed up so they don’t lose any files that are not on the server.

If you have your files centralized in the cloud, make sure you have a backup of those files.

7.Desktop

One additional place that may not be backed up is your Desktop.  It depends on your operating system; sometimes desktop files are excluded if you have your backups set to copy only “My Documents” files and subfolders.

Bonus Tip

Periodically check the accuracy and effectiveness of your backups and see if you can recover a file or two.  If not, you’re back to the drawing board, and it’s better to find out in a non-emergency situation that you have some work to do on your backup and recovery strategy.

Reducing Risks 

Being a business owner is all about taking calculated risks.  Having all your important business data backed up helps you reduce your risks and protect what’s perhaps your most important business asset.

Five Ways to Protect your Cash

As entrepreneurs, we work hard for our money, and the last thing we need is to have it disappear due to fraud, hackers, or identity theft.  Some people have called 2013 the year of the hacker, which is worrisome.  But you’re far more likely to experience risks with disgruntled or financially desperate employees and contractors.  Mistakes happen, too, and when they do it can be costly to get them corrected.

Here are five ways to increase your financial controls so that you can lower your business risks when it comes to the handling of cash and cash equivalents.  As you read the list, check to see where you can tighten up controls in your business.

Checking for Checks

Do you have blank checks lying around?  If so, reduce the temptation and get them locked up.  You can also go a step further and have your accountant run a report each month (or week) of missing check numbers.  If any checks are unaccounted for, take action by processing Stop Payment orders at your bank.

Bank on It

If you are still getting your bank reconciliation on paper, where does it get mailed?  The business owner should always see the bank reconciliation before anyone else does.  Also, make sure the person that performs the reconciliation is not the same person that deposits the checks.  Segregation of duties is essential to improve cash controls.

Today, it’s a good idea to do all your banking online, if possible, so that nothing gets mailed.  In that way, you have some reduced risk over identity theft.

Some banks offer multiple-user access to your banking account, so that bookkeepers can get the information they need.  Lock that user ID down as much as possible, so that the user can only get to what they need to.  If they’re honest, they will appreciate the reduced level of responsibility and consider it a smart financial move.

PayPal Protection

If you have a PayPal account, keep the balance low by transferring funds frequently to your bank account.  You can also restrict access to reduce your risk.

Credit Card Control

If you use credit cards in your business, you’ll want to maintain tight control over them.  For each employee or contractor that needs to charge items on a credit card, here are a couple of points to consider:

  • If the credit limit on the current card is sky-high, then ask the bank to lower it or set up a new card with very low credit limits just for employee use.
  • Contact your credit card company and get a card in the employee’s name.
  • Make sure you can access the credit card transactions online.  They are immediate, and if necessary, you can closely monitor what’s going on.
  • Insist on a receipt brought to you for every purchase.
  • Create clear procedures, limits, and approvals before the spending occurs.
  • Don’t let the employee “keep” the credit card during off hours.  Keep it locked up on your premises instead.

Safeguarding Payroll

One of the biggest cash outflows for small businesses is payroll.  Here, segregation of duties comes into play again.  The person preparing the payroll should not be the one who approves it and actually runs it.

You can do this by having different user accounts and controls within your payroll system.

Hopefully, you already have a lot of these ideas in place.  If not, add the ideas you like to your to do list so that your business risks will be reduced.

Five Places Where Spending More Pays Off

February 7, 2013 · Posted in Business Development, Business Tips · Comment 

It’s generally a good idea to keep overhead costs low so that your business profits will be higher.  This is especially true with items that are easily commoditized and fairly standardized, such as utilities and rent.  But there are times when increasing expenses pays off nicely, and here are five areas to consider so you can reap the rewards.

Training

Whether it’s for you or your staff, good training can pay back for years to come.  Learning new skills, no matter what our crafts are, will keep our businesses from becoming stagnant.  Implementing what we learn will help us grow.

You might get training to increase the mastery of your chosen profession.  You might also want to consider general business skills, including technology, marketing, finance, and leadership.  Just about everyone can benefit from learning more about project management, communications, and negotiations, to name a few more.

You might also want to consider “human performance” skills such as public speaking.  Whatever you choose, training is always a great investment that pays back big dividends.

Tools

Without the right tools, the same task can take double the time.  It’s a great idea to provide your employees with the most powerful computers and software on the market.  The cost of labor outweighs the costs of the computers, so it makes sense to load employees up with the best tools you can.  An employee with a slow computer, through no fault of their own, is not giving you their best, and that will cost money in lost productivity.

The same thing goes for owners.  You can spend your time fighting with a machine or getting a ton of work done.  I’m pretty sure the latter is more profitable.

Accounting

The most successful companies we work with invest in accounting services in five areas: accounting technology, accurate bookkeeping, thorough reporting, tax minimization, and professional consulting.  When we see business owners cutting corners in any of these areas, it usually costs them more money in the long run to clean up the problems that result.

An up-to-date accounting system minimizes maintenance and troubleshooting costs.   Making sure the bookkeeping and reconciliations are done properly is essential for compliance reporting and decision-making.  A robust set of reports allows a business owner to make smart decisions about running their business, and minimizing taxes helps you keep more of what you make.

Since accountants see thousands of financial reports in their careers, they have developed an eye for opportunities that a business owner may not see.  Bringing an outside perspective into your business is a good investment that can help you discover great opportunities in your business.

Marketing

Whatever you do in your business, you are helping others.  You are sharing a skill you have that your clients either don’t have or don’t choose to do for themselves.   Being a best-kept secret doesn’t help you share your gifts and talents.

Marketing can help you get the word out to people who need your services but might not know about you.  Developing great marketing materials will help you communicate what you do as well as receive fair compensation for what you do.  It almost always makes sense to invest in this area of your business.

Employee Perks and Benefits

Keeping employees passionate about your vision and motivated to be productive is a continuing task.  One way to do that is to provide employee benefits and perks that make it attractive for employees to work for you.

There are many ways to invest in your employees.  Good health insurance, personal time off, extra vacation time, education reimbursement, flex time, and working from home are just a few of the many options you can choose from to enhance employees’ working environments.

Measuring the Payoff

We can help you measure your return in any of these areas; as always, please let us know how we can help.

Planning for an Awesome 2013

For businesses with fiscal years that coincide with the calendar year, the slate of revenues and expenses will be wiped clean on New Year’s Day.  Starting with a clean slate gives us a chance to reflect on our 2012 results before we enter 2013 and experience the hope that comes with a new year.

Hindsight is always valuable, and we can learn important lessons from our past mistakes that we can now more objectively look back on.  We can take those lessons and incorporate them into our plans for the new year so that we can continue to learn, grow, and prosper.

To create your plans for an awesome 2013, here is a list of questions and documents to consider in your business.

Revenue Plan

We can make budgeting more fun by looking at the revenue side first.

  • Are you happy with your 2012 revenue levels?
  • What new product or service lines can you roll out in 2013?
  • Are there any product or service lines you should close in 2013?
  • Should you raise prices?

A revenue plan is useful because it can feed into your annual budget as well as drive your marketing plans.

Staffing Plan

Business is more fun when you have the right team to support your vision.

  • Is your current team sufficient to support your business goals for 2013?
  • In what areas do you need more help?  Should you hire or outsource?
  • Are there any team members that are not pulling their weight?
  • Was there a turnover that you would have rather not had?  How can you retain your best talent?

Master Budget

Your revenue plan and staffing plan can feed into your master budget, which can be loaded into your accounting system.  Tracking actuals against plan and prior year numbers will help you determine how you’re staying on track throughout the year.

Special Projects Plan

What special projects should you consider for 2013?  This might include a move, new fixed assets, or replacing systems and processes that you are outgrowing.

Disaster Recovery Plan

Each year, we watch the news and see people and businesses that were affected by extreme weather events, fires, theft, or other disaster.  Are you protected?

  • Is all of your data backed up to a remote location that is away from your local area?
  • Do you have the necessary insurance coverage for all areas of your business?
  • Are you comfortable with the risks you are taking in business and are you prepared for the worst-case consequences of those risks?  If not, take action to reduce your risks.

Planning for Awesome

Planning helps you become more successful, and it reduces the risks of doing business.  There are many more types of plans, and it’s up to you to decide which ones will benefit your business.  If we can help out in any way, please reach out and give us a call.

Is Your Business Missing an Accounting Skillset?

November 1, 2012 · Posted in Business Development, Business Tips · Comment 

In a small business, the owner ends up wearing many hats to get the product or service delivered, the customers served, and the accounts settled.  Within each functional area of a small business, there are even more hats.  Although the accounting function might be considered one big hat, there are actually a number of skills that make up “the accounting department” in a small business. Here’s a list to help you understand how it all works together.  As you read through it ask yourself how you are covering these functions in your workplace.

Data Entry Clerk

A data entry clerk typically knows how to do a few types of transactions that are routine.  Perhaps this is posting timesheets from source documents, inventory transactions, or keying in transactions from one report or system to another.  The data entry clerk usually has little or no knowledge of accounting or bookkeeping, and this person will need help when there are exceptions to the routine.

Bookkeeper

The main function of a bookkeeper is to post the transactions and reconcile the accounts of the business.  This can include a number of functions and areas:

  1. Invoicing and receipts in the accounts receivable area
  2. Checks and bills in the accounts payable area.
  3. Payroll.
  4. Inventory.
  5. Cash – bank reconciliations and necessary corrections and adjustments.
  6. Account analysis.
  7. Report preparation, but only to the extent that it rolls up the transactions.

Good bookkeepers will know how to work seamlessly with the CPA who is doing the taxes for the small business so that the books are in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Controller

A controller brings in advanced skills beyond bookkeeping, including financial statement preparation and analysis, budgeting and planning, cost control, risk assessment, internal control, segregation of duties, and industry knowledge.  A controller can bring valuable financial skills to a small business, and often do so by way of an outsourced part-time controller arrangement.

CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

The CFO is the highest level of accounting executive and is needed for complex strategies such as IPOs and financing for the larger company.  A small firm might need CFO-level skills in high growth situations to manage cash flow, debt ratios, and financing options.

Technical Accountant or CPA

Typically, an accountant will have a 4-year degree or a CPA or both.  In many states, the word “accountant” is reserved for CPAs.  Accountants have both education and experience in a wide variety of specialties, including taxes, auditing, cost accounting, bank financing, financial statement preparation, and more.

Tax Preparer, CPA, or EA (Enrolled Agent)

Typically a tax preparer offers tax planning, preparation, and filing in any or all of these areas:

  1. Federal and state corporate, partnership, nonprofit, or individual tax preparation, filing, and planning.
  2. Sales tax compliance and filing.
  3. Franchise tax.
  4. Payroll tax (although a good bookkeeper, controller, or accountant will know how to do this, too) and year-end requirements (W-2s and 1099s).

Management Advisory Consultant

One of the most overlooked roles an accountant can play in small business is in making process improvements in the way the staff and owner work in their business.  Often a management advisory consultant can review how a process is being performed, such as invoicing, and make suggestions on how to speed the process, bill more frequently, or other opportunity that significantly improves the cash condition.  The specialized skills of accounting, process knowledge, and software skills enable a management advisory consultant to save money for the business owner in many cases.

Accounting Software Consultant

An accounting software consultant has deep knowledge of one or more accounting software packages and can analyze the needs of the company to match them with the right accounting software.

Accounting Software Trainer

Just like any software package, and perhaps especially with accounting software, it’s not a good idea to guess how to use the software.  A software trainer will have in-depth knowledge of the tips and tricks inside the package that will save your bookkeeper (or you) time and money.

Adding Up the Value

The more of these roles you have covered in your business, the more your business will benefit.  If you have gaps, it’s likely you’re feeling the missing skillset and having issues around that area.

If we can help you fill any of these gaps, please let us know.  We’re at your service.

Compliance Checklist: Seven Items You May Have Forgotten

Running a business is filled with regulations everywhere you turn.  These can drain precious time away from the core of your business, but if you ignore them, there could be huge financial consequences you may be risking without even realizing it.  The best way to handle them is to understand your exposure, consult with any experts you need to bring in, create a checklist, and make sure you’re in compliance.

Here’s a head start in creating that checklist.  This is by no means a comprehensive list.  These items apply to most businesses and are often overlooked.   Go through the list to make sure there aren’t any surprises for your business.  If there are, feel free to contact us, and we’ll help you find out where to get answers.

1. EIC notice to employees.

It’s now required annually to notify certain employees about the Earned Income Credit so that more people who need it can take advantage of it.   If you have employees, the next deadline for this compliance item is the first week of February 2013 and can be met if you get the right W-2 forms.  Details are in IRS Publication 15.

2. Corporate meeting minutes.

Just about the first thing the IRS will ask for in an audit is your corporate meeting minutes.  If you are incorporated as a C Corp or S Corp, you need properly formatted and executed documentation of the annual shareholders’ meeting, even if it is just you.  The risk in not having it includes a potential increase in tax liability from undocumented deductions.

3. PCI compliance. 

PCI stands for Payment Card Industry, and if you take credit cards, you may have compliance requirements under this industry standard.  The standard is designed to provide the cardholder with a minimum acceptable level of security, and your requirement is to maintain certain processes and procedures to safeguard the stored credit card data.

4. Document retention.

While it’s a great thing to go paperless, you may get caught by surprise if you are not downloading and preserving the items you used to have on paper.  The IRS and other agencies still need proof of these items in order to approve the deduction.  This includes invoices that are coming via email in PDFs, bank statements you’ve gone green on, and direct deposit payroll stubs, to name a few.

Fax copies fade after a few years and can catch you by surprise when you go to look up an old record and can no longer read it.  It’s best to scan fax receipts in so they will stay readable for the length of the retention period.

You’ll also want to keep up-to-date on how many years it’s necessary to maintain these items in the case of an audit.

5. New hire reporting.

In small business, most of us are hiring so infrequently that it’s easy to forget this one.  Most state unemployment agencies require that you report new hires within about three weeks of their start date.  The purpose of this is to track fathers who have missed child support payments.

6. Changes in state tax compliance.

As geographic borders disappear and our business expands, we need to regularly re-evaluate state requirements on income, franchise, and sales tax obligations.  It can be too easy to “do things the way we’ve always done them” and forget that as our business expands into new territories, new obligations can arise.

If we’ve hired a virtual employee in another state, we may have new obligations.  If we’ve earned money during a speaking engagement in another state, we may have income to report in that state.    And, of course, if we open new offices in another state, we have new compliance items to deal with.

7. Payroll posters.

Surprisingly, the highest payback item in this list for those of you that have employees may be posting your payroll posters.  Compliance usually costs less than $100, and the fines avoided can be as much as $17,000, a pretty big dent, no matter how big your small business is.

Small Business Compliance

Did you get caught by any surprises?  If so, let us know how we can help to bring your business into compliance and help you avoid unnecessary costly risks.

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