Category Archives: Taxes

Keeping The Edge

As with any game in sports, it’s rare that a good offense wins without a good defense to back it up. Your finances are no different.

So how often should You analyze your “game” to determine any weaknesses and reposition resources as necessary? Once a month is the best practice, subject to the unexpected, a flag that could put Your income at risk and elevate expenses.

Having an “A” game in place is good, and having a plan “B” is also recommended for reasons noted above. Here are a few tactics on how to fortify Your game plan:

  • Are there other possible revenue streams You could implement
  • Ideally you already have and are using a budget, and make sure You include Owner Draws in the budget
  • Document all cash purchases to capture any deductible personal or business expenses
  • Save consistently for rainy day and/or the emergency funds
  • Be as debt free as possible, pay off credit cards regularly if possible
  • Rotating credit cards and paying them off affects credit scores in a positive way

Accountancy is all about the numbers, achieving offensive/defensive balance, and being able to quickly adjust to change.

MJB’s Bookkeeping Solutions will work the sidelines to assist You in creating a clearer economic path, so that You can spend your effort and time on what is important.  Call, Email, or Make an appointment for Your No Obligation Consultation Today.

Classifying transactions

Pinpointing Your Niche: Classes…QuickBooks Style

September has arrived and many are sharpening pencils as well as skills. If you are managing multiple revenue streams and looking for a good way to assess what is working  and what is not, grab your favorite note taking device and explore the ABC’s of “Classes”, and how it might provide you a clearer economic path.

Maybe you need to track product and service lines in detail. QuickBooks Classes differentiate transactions by departments, locations, product line, service type or other defining category relevant to your business or personal finance preference. QuickBooks keeps it easy and clean using the same chart of accounts across all Classes. Run a report and you will quickly see the line of business metrics.

When setting up Class Tracking think about

  • How do you want to see your business segmented on your financial reports? Classes will capture not only income and expense, but also assets, liabilities, and equity transactions.
  • Be consistent in how you enter class information on registers to be sure that your financial reports are accurate.
  • Need additional specifics? Set up “Sub-Classes” under the main Class.

Once you have mapped out your system you will have the ability to analyze your business finances from different perspectives…using built in reports “by class”.

When you might use Classes

  • A business with two or more locations – like a grocery store – could use to analyze the profitability of each location.
  • A contracting business with both maintenance and installation services may want to track the return on investment of each service separately. Or, perhaps need to track by a single family, commercial, or renovate and sell investment property.
  • A Non-Profit will track income and expenses by grant, event or project.
  • A Property Management Company might track by tenant within a single location, or for each property location.
  • A service business may be interested in tracking the location of current clients, in order to increase marketing in an untapped area.

You want to know if you are getting paid for your hard work – where, how much and when your money is coming and going, and most importantly what’s left for you.  Class tracking is a great tool to do this.

If you have questions about classes or other accounting questions, please contact me or make an appointment now, to ensure that you are focusing your hard work, passion and commitment for creating value in the right direction.

Looking for an organized way to manage your personal or business finances, and save time preparing various tax returns like Payroll, Sales Tax, and State and Federal Tax Returns?

Anyone, business or individual, can use QuickBooks for this purpose, and get organized with less paper and shoebox clutter.  We will customize the learning to You, whether a beginner or beyond. For the beginner we start with a few items like:

  • Easy Installation (The Wizard)
  • Homepage (The Roadmap)
  • Customize for your individual or business with preferences and settings
  • Create Invoices for Customers & Bills from Vendors
  • Basic Financial Reports

For those beyond, sessions will tailored to your specific questions.

Call  or Email Today for more information, or to get started with Your organized financial future. You work hard and deserve more freedom to choos how You use your time.

The Vitals, Heart of a Personal or Business Operation

Have you ever considered that accounting is the health sustaining organ of an operation, and that its health has an impact on success or failure? An operation will survive when there is sufficient cash flow, however, what about when expenses are exceeding the income for a prolonged period? Perhaps an analogy will help clarify this concept.

The human heart is divided into two flow systems, which continuously pump oxygen and nutrient rich blood to sustain life. The Income flow from the organs and tissues of your body enters the right side of your heart, pumps to the lungs to remove waste and recharge with oxygen, and returns into the left side of your heart. The flow then Expenses to all parts and organs, ensuring oxygen and nourishment for your body to work efficiently.

Finances also have two flow systems, Revenue (income) and Expense (outgo). To gain a better understanding of financial health, a tool is also used that helps identify where the transactions are going and that’s the Chart of Accounts (COA). Arteries and capillaries organize and direct your blood on a path to where it’s needed, the COA organizes your finances in a way so that you see how your cash flows, and determine if the income/outgo flow is healthy.

Independent of the operation type, size, industry, or structure all use a chart of accounts, generally organized the same with bank accounts, assets, liabilities, equity, income, and expenses. From there, the unique personal or business aspects will determine the necessary customization of the COA.

  • Bank: where cash is deposited (petty cash, checking, savings, mma)
  • Asset: bank accounts, accounts receivable, or other current assets (prepaid expenses or loaning money to someone for example), and fixed assets (major purchase like furniture and equipment).
  • Liability: accounts payable, loans or lines of credit, credit cards, security deposits from customer, sales or payroll tax.
  • Equity Account: track money invested in or money taken out by owners or shareholders.
  • Income: money earned from sales of product or service, residual income, commission.
  • Expense: categorizes money spent immediately during normal operations, not purchased as accounts payable (office supplies, rent, advertising, utilities, etc.).

Company finances can be very complicated, however, with the proper tools it is very possible to keep track of your operation’s health. Whether you are using the old-fashioned paper and pencil or using accounting software, it is vital to know where the money is coming from, and where it is going. Categorizing expenses properly gives insight into ways to adjust and improve health, and assists in getting every tax deduction entitled to.

As you would seek out professional advice to ensure that your body’s heart is functioning properly, consider the professional advice of a professional bookkeeper or accountant to safeguard the heart of your business.

To Your Health

Does Math Really Count?

Guest Blog by Barbara J. Waite, Your Chief Priority Officer – Projects, Your Way

How many of you have had that experience in high school where you were wondering, “Now how in the world will math be useful to me in real life?” Well it wasn’t until I was asked to tutor a high school student on the fundamentals of algebra did I develop a real appreciation for the language of numbers. The real cool thing about this language is that it ties all humanity together… math is a universal phenomenon whether it is represented by the dollar, euro, yen or peso. As I began to ponder over this implication, I could clearly see how math is so immersed in our daily routine that our life would be chaotic without it! Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • MATH HELPS US BUILD THINGS: Creating something that will last and add value to our home requires creativity, the right set of tools, and a broad range of mathematics. Having the ability to do minor home improvements will save a lot of money and headache. Armed with math, we will also have the ability to check the work and project estimates, ensuring we’re getting the best value.
  • MATH HELPS US BECOME GREAT CHEFS: More math can be found in the kitchen than anywhere else in the house. After all, recipes are really just mathematical problems or self-contained step-by-step sets of processes to be performed.
  • MATH HELPS US MANAGE OUR TIME: With only 1,440 minutes in a day, we really need help in prioritizing what we need to accomplish and thankfully, with the help of math, we can! By assigning each task a number and the higher the number, the more priority it receives. This mathematical to-do list allows us to dedicate yourself to the most important and time-sensitive tasks first.

And most importantly,

  • MATH HELPS US MANAGE OUR FINANCES: Experts agree that without strong math skills, people tend to invest, save, or spend money based on their emotions. Someone who thoroughly grasps the concepts of exponential growth and compound interest will be more inclined to better manage their finances.

These are but a few ways in which math helps us to make better daily decisions… not only in our personal lives but also our business, where the accounting system is the heart of the operation and the state of its health can mean success or failure. Simply put, math is about solving problems and it plays such an integral part in our daily activities both personally and professionally, it’s no wonder why our high school math teachers were so intent on teaching us this very valuable language skill.

If math makes you squirm or you just want a second opinion, consider an external Bookkeeper/Accountant Doctor for your finances.

Small Business Accounting Pitfalls

There are so many things to keep in mind when you own a small business. Details ranging from inventory to order fulfillment are just the baseline concerns. If you’re a brick and mortar business, your overhead includes a lease, utilities, and maybe additional employees. If you run an online business, your overhead includes the cost of parking your domain somewhere, maybe an email management system. Regardless of whatever kind of business you own, though, you will have to make sure your books are in order.

Keep it separated.

It’s true that you will spend money out-of-pocket to start your business. You’ll also most likely spend out-of-pocket to bolster up your business in the first few years. Until you start turning a profit, pretty much everything you have will go into the business.

In spite of what seems like an endless flow of your personal cash into supporting your business, though, you should still keep your personal finances and your business finances separate. Creating a separate business checking account is a good way to compartmentalize and organize your business. Not only is good accounting policy, it’s also a way to help you mentally compartmentalize and look at your business in a critical and objective way.

Anyone who starts a business has to have passion and drive. Without it, there’s little point to making all the necessary sacrifices. But the truth is, it’s just not enough to be passionate about your business idea. You have to be able to look at the business and make decisions as objectively as possible.

Keeping it as separate from your personal finances as possible is a solid first step towards helping yourself do this.

Pay attention to the kind of business credit you get.

Depending on the kind of business you started, you might need seed money to build inventory, or to float your overhead for the first few months — or longer. There are all kinds of options and all kinds of institutions that might be able to help you., from banks to credit unions to even crowd sourcing. Be sure you pick the one that’s right for you; and, if you can, at all costs, try to avoid seeding your business using a credit card. If you find yourself unable to pay it back, it could seriously hurt your chances to access other kinds of funding.

Keep it organized.

Disorganized record keeping is the death knell of small business. If you’re forward thinking enough, you already set how to organize and store your important records. But even if you didn’t think about that in the beginning, it’s not too late to start now. Take the time to go back through your records and organize them. Yes, it’s a pain. Yes, it takes time, which is a commodity that’s already in short supply. Yes, it means some headaches, depending on how long you’ve put off going through and organizing your records.

But it will be worth it. And, it’s also a good lesson for you that will have more good returns than bad.

Update your books on a regular basis… more than just monthly.

You are the heart and soul of your business. But your books are the blood and bones. Keeping your books up-to-date isn’t the sexiest way to spend an evening; but it will give you the confidence you need to make objective decisions.

It may seem like updating your books monthly would be enough, and it may well be enough for a well-established business. If you’re just starting out, however, the ebb and flow of your business isn’t all that stable. The more you put your eyes on your books, the better chances you have to succeed later. It’s not enough to keep your receipts. Add them in weekly, or even bi-weekly. Keep an eye on your receivables and sales. If your business has heavy overhead, it’s even more important that you update your books regularly.

Don’t confuse sales with profits.

You’ve made a few sales, satisfied a few clients, and gotten a few more. Good for you! But if you’re just starting out, be sure to remember that sales aren’t profits. You don’t get to call it profit until after you take out business expenses – if for no other reason than to take pressure off your personal pocketbook – and quarterly or annual taxes.

It’s good to be passionate and important to be excited about your business. But don’t start trying to roll around in profits before they actually start rolling in.

Don’t be afraid to consult a professional.

It’s okay to admit you’re over your head in certain aspects of your business. That doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel. A smart business owner knows it’s important to sometimes find someone who knows a little more about some aspect of the business. Because in the end, owning a successful business is as much about learning and evolving as it is relying on common sense.

Last minute tax tips for small businesses

As the April 18th deadline for filing taxes looms on the horizon, you may be in the enviable position of having already filed your tax return. If you haven’t already filed, however, as a small business owner or entrepreneur you are probably working overtime to get it done. Depending on the kind and size of business you run, you might have a tax preparation professional do your taxes for you. But you may be just starting out and want to save the expense; if that’s the case – and even if it’s not – there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Know what you owe

As a small business, you should probably be paying your taxes quarterly. These payments can be easy to forget, though, especially if you are a sole proprietor working in the creative economy or the gig economy.

If you did make your final quarterly payment on January 15th, make sure you take that into account when you file. Take the time to deduct any levies or account for any late fees and penalties the IRS may impose if you happened to miss a payment.

2. Accelerate or defer.

Many sole proprietors use cash basis accounting – which means they report income when payments are received. Depending on the kind of business you have, you might consider scheduling your billing so clients can pay early in the new year for work you completed late in the previous year.

The advantage to this is that you’re getting income early in the year.

However, if you had a successful year you could accelerate your deductible expenses. There are a few things you can do to help relieve your tax burden if you plan ahead, such as:

  1. making extra charitable donations,
  2. renewing professional journals and licenses before the year ends, or
  3. replacing old business equipment.

If you are in the position to, you might also consider

  1. prepaying your state income tax,
  2. selling an investment property at a loss, or
  3. selling securities at a loss.

If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, there’s nothing you can do about taxes. They are as much a part of your business as your customers or client base. The trick to making it all less odious, though, is to be proactive. Think ahead early in the year so the end of the year doesn’t hit you any harder than it needs to.

Timely Tax Tips for Freelance Workers

There is a cost to the freedom you get being a freelance worker. While you can probably fudge on office-appropriate attire and set your own start time (Sleeping late can be a viable option!), there is one thing you can’t avoid if you hope to be successful.

Taxes.

When able to, a lot of freelancers prefer to hire an accountant. There are a lot of things to keep track of; and while tax law for freelancers really is a lot of common sense if you think about it, the problem is that there is really a lot to keep in mind. As a freelancer, you are your own employer. In addition to the usual responsibilities of a working adult — the electric bill, the water bill, the gas bill, and your rent or mortgage – you are also responsible for your obligations as your own employer. This means paying into Social Security and Medicare, and perhaps setting up a retirement account.

We’ve already talked about the self-employment tax . It’s important to keep in mind that because you are both and employer and an employee, that you are responsible for the Employer and Employee portions of Social Security and Medicare, 15.3% of earnings. It’s true that you can offset earnings with deductions; but you need to be as careful about what you pay as you are about what you don’t pay.

Here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you stay organized.

  1. Don’t trust your 1099.

If you earn $600 or more from a client, that client should send you a 1099-MISC. It’s very important that you compare. Look at Box 7 on your 1099-MISC and compare that number to the number you have in your records. If your client claims they paid you more than your records state, go through the steps to verify and get a new 1099.  Remember: the tax burden is on you, not your clients. The IRS won’t annoy them with phone calls and letters. They will annoy you.

  1. Get a separate bank account.

Yes, you work for yourself. It’s your money and if you’re making less than $600 total, you may not need a separate business account. If freelancing is your primary source of income, however, you really should consider getting a separate account. This will save you headaches when looking up transactions. If you use accounting software like QuickBooks, having a separate account will make it easier to download information to plug into your books. It also makes it easier to track business expenses for deductions.

  1. Pay attention to Estimated Tax.

As a freelancer, you will probably have to pay taxes quarterly instead of just once a year. You’re also an employer, remember?

If you’ve been freelancing for more than a year, you can get a good idea of what you should plan on paying by using one of several easy to use calculators on line such as:

http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/tax-planning/self-employed-business-tax-calculator.aspx

or

http://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/free-self-employment-tax-calculator-quickbooks/

It’s not always easy being your own boss. But it’s not impossible. And if you are the kind of person who enjoys the autonomy, then the additional responsibility is part and parcel. The trick is to be as careful with your books as you are with the work you do, and to be smart about it.

Protect yourself from identity theft

As if you don’t have enough to worry about as an entrepreneur this tax season, there is one more thing you need to be very aware of: identify theft.

If you are a sole proprietor, everything about your business is tied back to you. Your livelihood not only depends on your good work habits, but on safeguarding your information — your clients’ information and your own. And as we slide into the middle of FY2016 tax season, you should also do what you can do to ensure your private information isn’t stolen and used to steal your tax return right out from underneath you.

The first thing to consider, if you haven’t already, is getting an Employee Identification Number (EIN). As a sole proprietor, you’re not legally required to get an EIN. But in addition to protecting your personal assets in the event your business hits a few bumps, having an EIN can also help protect your identity. With an EIN, you will not have to use your social security number for any business-related tax forms or credit or loan applications.

The best part about it is this: it doesn’t cost you anything.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

Watch what you throw away.

The easiest and most common method thieves use to steal someone’s identity is simply going through their garbage. Be very careful about what you throw away. Just because you tie up your garbage bag and have a secure lid on your can or dumpster doesn’t mean you are being as careful as you could be. It wouldn’t hurt to invest in a paper shredder to ensure that any documents with potentially useful information for identity thieves are unusable.

(Here’s a little side tip if you also garden: depending on how much paper you shred and what kind of paper it is you can add shredded paper to compost.)

Watch where you handle financial matters

One of the big draws about being a freelancer or owning your own business is that, depending on what you do, you can literally take your business anywhere. We’ve all seen the gig economy articles with pictures of satisfied looking semi-professionally dressed people sipping a latte in some generic coffee shop while working on a laptop.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to doing your taxes, it’s a good idea to avoid public Wi-Fi hotspots for filing digitally. You should also avoid publicly accessible hotspots at hotels and fast food restaurants, even if it’s a secure spot that requires a password. Your best bet for filing digitally is to file from home or your business office, using a hardline connection or a secured connection where you control access.

Also, if you’re using a tax app on your smart phone that requires you to take a picture of your W-2, be sure to delete the photo after you’ve sent it.

Beware phone and email scams.

The IRS always sends documentation if there is an issue with your tax return. If you haven’t received any documentation, but are receiving phone calls and emails claiming you owe the IRS an excess of back taxes, be extremely cautious. They will sometimes give you fictitious but very real sounding badge or employee numbers. Sometimes they even know the last four digits of your social security number. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the IRS, immediately hang up and contact the IRS. If you receive an email, you can forward the IRS the email, but if possible, you should not open it as it may be part of a different phishing scam to install malware on your computer.

If you don’t prepare your own taxes, make sure you find someone trustworthy.

If your tax preparer asks you to sign a blank return, run – don’t walk – the other direction.

There are other ways to protect yourself

If you decide that protecting your identity is also a worthwhile financial investment, there are several programs available.

  • LegalShield © has a service called IDShield ©. They offer this in addition to other legal services for small businesses.
  • AAA also has two identity theft services they provide for members: ProtectMyID Essential and ProtectMyID Deluxe.

Self Care: The Self-Employment Tax

If you work for yourself, it doesn’t take you long to figure out that the American Dream has a few strings attached. One aspect of self-employment that people hardly ever talk about is the self-employment tax. Yes, you already pay income taxes, and depending on how you structure your business, you may be paying them quarterly.

But what about FICA? It’s not the government’s job to make sure that you, as a self-employed individual, are paying the proper amount into Social Security and Medicare.

That’s part of your job.

This is what we mean by the self-employment tax. According to the IRS , the self-employment tax “is a tax consisting of Social Security and Medicare taxes primarily who work for themselves.”

The first thing to remember that unless you make more than $400 in a year, you’re not required to pay the any self-employment taxes.  You’ll notice that the threshold for requiring to pay is lower than the amount required for a client to provide you a 1099.


You’ll also notice that there are two options for figuring your earnings to base your tax payment on: one for farmers and one for other kinds of self-employed individuals (the nonfarm optional method). The nonfarm optional method can be used if net profits are less than $5,457 and also less than 72.189% of gross nonfarm income, but you had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400 in two of the prior three years.

Please keep in mind, however, that the nonfarm income optional method can only be used five times by a self-employed individual.

When determining your income, make sure to clearly delineate between what you’re paid as a self-employed individual and any money you earn as the result of investing in something else – especially if the business you end up investing in is in a similar line to what you do. You also need to be aware of the IRS and court rulings regarding monies paid out as retirement. Retirement is just taxable income (depending if from a tax-deferred vehicle) not self-employment, and no FICA or medicare is taken out, just income tax based on your tax bracket.

Even if you’re not bringing in a lot of money yet as a self-employed trailblazer, you may want to consider going ahead and paying some self-employment tax voluntarily. Although you may not be legally required to pay, there is an advantage. You will be able to earn Social Security credits, which translate into higher benefit when you retire.