Archive for the ‘Accounting’ Category

The Future of Online Accounting

The increase in the number of online accountants seems to have has coincided with the elevation of online software. As such, small business accounting is as efficient as it has ever been.

 

There are several reasons for the rise of online accounting services. In a world where ease of use is a necessity not a luxury, it seems the simple nature of online accounting platforms employed by accountants has genuine appeal.

 

For instance, online accounting firms make the hassle of paperwork a distant memory by providing a simple online uploading system. You can lodge all of your documents by scanning them in or using your smartphone. You can then leave the rest to your online accountant.

 

Take Nudge for example. Once you have sent your documents through, we crunch the numbers, prepare the paperwork and lodge it on your behalf. When that is done we send you an ongoing monthly statement of your business performance. As the meerkat says, it’s “simples!”

 

Online accounting provides time poor businesses with a contemporary and affordable financial management system. It takes the time constraints of paperwork (sometimes poor paperwork that has to be done again) away from less experienced employees or bookkeepers who should be focusing on running their departments and dealing with staff, customers or stakeholders. It allows business owners to wipe their brow and focus on growth.

 

A further benefit of the online accounting model is the fixed fee structure. With online accounting you know the services you will receive for the price you have paid. There are different fee structures for the level of service you require, but again we live in a world where ease of use and transparency is a major caveat as to whether goods and services are purchased or not.

 

The future lies in a world where there are no appointments, flat fee structures, and any time, anywhere services.

 

It doesn’t matter whether the service or product is tea, tapware, telecommunications or accounting, there is an inbuilt need for online services. And with today’s technologies, there is no excuse for poor online experiences.

 

There is no expectation that traditional accounting will disappear, but as time-poor people look for ways to reduce stress and alleviate any business burden that can be outsourced, there will be an even bigger shift towards the delivery of online accounting.

Are you claiming all your tax offsets?

Tax is confusing at the best of times. No matter how much the ATO try to simplify things, there are always hidden deductions, offsets, rules and regulations. So how do you know what to claim and offset? Often it’s best to talk to your accountant, but here is a quick guide to help you make sense of your tax rebates.
Tax rebates or offsets directly reduce the amount of tax payable on your taxable income. In general, offsets can reduce your tax payable to zero, but on their own they can’t get you a refund.
There are several offset categories from which you can claim and you will generally fit into one of these. The categories are:

  • Receipt of government benefits
  • Dependents
  • Health insurance
  • Medical expenses
  • Senior Australian and pensioner allowances
  • Super related tax offsets
  • Low-income earners
  • Zones and overseas forces

Let’s take a look at each individual category.

Receipt of government benefits
The beneficiary tax offset is available if you receive certain Australian Government allowances and payments.
No tax is paid if you:

  • receive any of the qualifying benefits and allowances, and
  • have no other taxable income

Any assessable income that you receive beyond these benefits may require some tax to be paid. To claim the offset, declare the payment you receive at the correct item on your tax return.

Dependents

There are several offsets within this category. You may be entitled to a tax offset if you maintained your:

  • spouse
  • child or sibling aged 16 years or older
  • spouse’s child or sibling aged 16 years or older
  • parent, or spouse’s parent if they are an invalid or carer

For more information about what constitutes an invalid or carer please go to the ato.gov.au website.

Health insurance
Entitlements to a private health insurance rebate or tax offset depend on your income level. The amount of private health insurance rebate you are entitled to receive is reduced if your income is more than a certain amount. You can claim your private health insurance rebate as a:

  • premium reduction, which lowers the policy price charged by your insurer
  • refundable tax offset through your tax return

Medical expenses

As the ATO states, net medical expenses are your total medical expenses minus refunds from Medicare and private health insurers that you, or someone else, received or are entitled to receive.
The net medical expenses tax offset is being phased out.
You may not be eligible to receive the medical expenses offset if other tax offsets have reduced your tax payable to zero.

This offset is income tested. If you are eligible for the offset, the percentage of net medical expenses you can claim is determined by your adjusted taxable income and family status.

Senior Australians
Senior Australians may be eligible for the seniors and pensioners tax offset (SAPTO).
SAPTO can reduce the amount of tax this demographic is liable to pay. In some cases, this offset may reduce your tax liability to zero and you may not have to lodge a tax return.
Eligibility is based on conditions relating to your income and eligibility for an Australian Government pension. You must meet the age requirement for the Age pension to be eligible for the offset.
In some cases, you may also be able to transfer your eligible spouse’s unused SAPTO to you.

Super related tax offsets
The two super-related tax offsets for which you may be eligible are:

  • Australian super income stream tax offset
  • Tax offset for super contributions on behalf of your spouse

The first offset occurs if you receive income from an Australian super income stream. If this is the case you may be entitled to a tax offset equal to:

  • 15% of the taxed element, or
  • 10% of the untaxed element

The offset amount available to you will be shown on your payment summary.

You’re not entitled to a tax offset for the taxed element of any super income stream you receive before you turn 55 years old unless the super income stream is either a:

  • disability super benefit, or
  • death benefit income stream

You’re not entitled to a tax offset for the untaxed element of any super income stream you receive before you turn 60 years old unless:

  • the super income stream is a death benefit income stream; and
  • the deceased died after they turned 60 years old

To receive the offset for super contributions on behalf of your spouse you must make contributions to a complying superannuation fund or a retirement savings account on behalf of your spouse (married or de facto) who is earning a low income or not working.

You will be entitled to a tax offset of up to $540 per year if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • the sum of your spouse’s assessable income, total reportable fringe benefits amounts and reportable employer super contributions was less than $13,800
  • the contributions were not deductible to you
  • the contributions were made to a super fund that was a complying super fund for the income year in which you made the contribution
  • both you and your spouse were Australian residents when the contributions were made
  • when making the contributions you and your spouse were not living separately and apart on a permanent basis

Low-income earners
If you are a low-income earner, or work part-time, the ATO will work out the offset amount for you.

Zones and overseas forces
Zone tax offset

You must have lived or worked in a remote area (not necessarily continuously) for:

  • 183 days or more during the current income year; or
  • 183 days or more in total during the current and previous income years – but less than 183 days in the current year and less than 183 days in the previous income year, and you did not claim a zone tax offset in your previous year’s tax return

If you lived in a zone for less than 183 days in the current income year, you may still be able to claim a tax offset as long as you lived in a zone for a continuous period of less than five years and:

  • you were unable to claim in the first year because you lived there less than 183 days; and
  • the total of the days you lived there in the first year and in the current year is 183 or more

Overseas forces tax offset

You may be eligible for an overseas forces tax offset if you serve in a specified overseas locality as a member of one of the following:

  • Australian Defence Force
  • Australian Federal Police, or
  • United Nations Armed Forces, and income relating to that service is not specifically exempt from tax

This is a basic offset guide, based on information provided by the ATO. For a more comprehensive guide to offsets, you should speak with your accountant or spend some time further investigating the ATO’s website.

QuickBooks Online versus Desktop: Comparing the Benefits and Limitations

Choosing the right accounting software can be a critical decision that has a drastic effect on your company’s accounting processes for years to come. For entrepreneurs starting their business, or established small and medium sized business, this is no exception. With so many applications available, it is certainly a decision that needs to be researched and thought out.One question that the bookkeeping team at LedgersOnline hears almost daily is “What is the difference between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop?” This is a loaded question, as both applications are great in their own way, and also have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. It is also important to keep in mind that there are many accounting applications out there; each of which have their own pros and cons.QuickBooks Online

It is clear that the Intuit team has been working on their online version for some time now, and it is only going to get better. QuickBooks Online has some great attributes for small businesses, and is a cost effective application that gives a range of interesting features. Some things that stand out when compared to their desktop counterpart include:

  • Multi-User, Anytime/Anywhere Access Through any Web Browser
  • Mobile Compatible for iPhone, iPad, and Android
  • Automated Customer Billing
  • Automated Email Reports
  • Activity Log (Audit Trail)
  • Location Tracking
  • Multiple AR/AP Lines
  • Monthly packages starting at $12.95 USD & $9.99 CDN

QuickBooks Desktop

As mentioned, both the QuickBooks Online and Desktop applications offer distinct features that are beneficial in their own way. It is important for businesses to evaluate these features to see which application will work best for them. The desktop version, for example, offers increased functionality when it comes to custom reporting and inventory management. For many businesses, the combination of these features can make the desktop version of QuickBooks an automatic choice. The Desktop version also includes:

  • Custom Reporting
  • Sales Orders
  • Inventory Assemblies
  • Progress Invoicing
  • Receiving Partial Purchase Orders
  • Profit & Loss by Class
  • QuickBooks Statement Writer
  • Budget vs Actuals for Jobs
  • Annual fee starting at $349.95 CDN

One thing to take into consideration is QuickBooks hosting for the desktop version. LedgersOnline for example, is able to host the desktop version on our servers, giving businesses multi-user, anytime/anywhere access to their accounting file. Although more expensive than the online version, this can be a good alternative for businesses who need the functionality of the desktop version, as well as the accessibility of the online version.

Key Questions to Take Into Consideration

Choosing between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop is a difficult decision that needs to be researched and thought out thoroughly. Be sure to evaluate your current state, and where you could benefit from advancements to meet the future goals and needs of your business. Ask yourself:

1. What software do you use?

Are you an all Mac shop? QuickBooks Online can be used on any system, which draws many businesses in who use Apple computers. Keep in mind that you can also host the desktop version of QuickBooks, which allows for multi-user access from Macs and Windows alike. QuickBooks Desktop for the Mac does have its limitations, but we’ll save that for a future post.

2. Do you require remote access?

QuickBooks Online offers anywhere/anytime access to multiple users, which makes multi-user access to your accounting file simple. Again, you can also host the desktop version, but there are additional costs associated with this.

3. Does your business track inventory?

QuickBooks Desktop offers a number of features specific to industry, such as inventory controls, which are very important for some businesses. For example, if your business takes raw materials or components and builds products to sell to the end user, the desktop version of QuickBooks is a great choice. On the other hand, if you have very basic inventory, the online version of QuickBooks may be suitable.

The QuickBooks team offers a wide range of products that have something to offer for all businesses. It is important to understand the needs and goals of your business, both now and in the future, and compare them to the features and functionality that the online and desktop versions have to offer. It is also important to realize that there are many applications available for small and medium sized businesses, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Affordable bookkeeping services for any business anywhere

Contact us or learn more about our affordable bookkeeping services and see how we can help you with your books regardless of your location with clients across North America.

How To Create a Business Plan for Small Businesses

At its most basic level, the Business Plan is roadmap for your business. It will outline your businesses goals, as well as how your business plans to achieve those goals. Good business plans take it one step further and create buzz about the future prospect of your business. In that sense, the business plan is as much about selling your business, as it is about carefully setting goals and planning how to achieve them. Poor planning and financial management are the leading causes of business failure – don’t fall victim to this easily avoided pitfall.

Composing a compelling business plan can be a nerve-wracking, and time consuming task. To help you get organized here is a logical outline of information that all business plans should include.

  • Executive Summary
  • Business Overview
  • Sales and Marketing Plan
  • Operating Plan
  • Human Resources Plan
  • Financial Plan
  • Action Plan

Free full version, The Small Business Accounting Kit 

How Much Do Accounting Services Cost?

Without fail, we get asked “How much do accounting services cost?” by about ten percent of our initial inquiries. The question comes in various forms, from “What is your hourly rate for a bookkeeper?” to “Can I get a ballpark of what it would cost for a daily bookkeeping service?” but the questions all boil down to one main concern: Cost.

Of course, we understand that cost is and will always be a factor in decision-making. After all, budgets must allow for the cost and an appropriate return on the expense must be present. But we worry sometimes that this question, when taken out of context, fails to address the greater issues at hand. As such, we do not have a pricing matrix per se but rather we create custom fixed fee monthly quotes for each prospective business based on the scope and complexity of the work required. However, we can address cost considerations in different ways to help answer your pricing concerns.

What About An Hourly Rate for Bookkeeping Services?

This may come as a surprise (unless you’re a big fan of accounting yourself) but virtually any business can boil down their expenses and costs to some form of an hourly rate. After all, the number of employee hours spent on a given project and the employees’ salaries can easily provide a rough hourly estimate through basic arithmetic. As a responsible business, we have to know what the cost of our services is to appropriately budget and set pricing. However, actually billing at an hourly rate doesn’t make sense for us due to a variety of reasons.

Scope and Complexity of Work Isn’t Always A Straight Equation

This may go without saying but not all bookkeeping tasks are as simple or as complex as others. Some of our clients require incredibly complex reporting and financial management, which requires oversight by highly trained professionals. These same highly trained professionals may also be the ones monitoring and managing more common bookkeeping tasks—but charging clients a single “rate” for services would potentially put them at risk for paying hourly rates that are not always in line with the level of knowledge required to deliver a service. Instead, evaluating an approximate amount of time required to perform each account task in a period and establishing monthly, fixed fee rates for the complexity of work required is more likely to create a fair price.

Price Fluctuations In Monthly Fixed Fees For Accounting Services

At the same time, we recognize that our clients like to have options when it comes to their accounting services. From adjustments in frequency that increase or reduce the number of times work is performed to service add-ons that increase or reduce the complexity of reporting and analysis, we provide up to three “service tiers” for accounting services quotes. Some examples of typical variations include the frequency of review with a controller, managed employee expense reporting, payroll management and sales tax reporting. Sometimes simple adjustments in frequency, such as from monthly to quarterly, can have notable effects on pricing.

Interested in finding out how much accounting services would cost for your business? Contact us for a free consultation.

Why Our Clients Are Relying On An Outsourced CFO

Throughout the course of our work we find ourselves engaging with and working in accordance with many different types of professionals to assist our clients. One of the most common professionals we work with is the company CFO—and for good reason. Of course CFOs rely on accurate financial statements and thorough accounting, which is the bulk of our daily work for clients. As we’ve honed this working relationship and find ourselves engaging on more comprehensive levels with our clients’ CFOs, we’ve started to notice a bit of a trend: Many of our clients are increasingly reliant upon outsourced CFOs.

What Is An Outsourced CFO?

So what is an outsourced CFO you might ask? And how does it differ from a conventional CFO? Well, in actuality the specifics of the job functions don’t differ so much between outsourced and conventional as they may between different company types and sizes. However, where they differ substantially is in the flexibility and adaptability in the particular application of their skills.

For many of our clients, an outsourced CFO is proving the ideal channel because it provides the high level CFO services they require without the burden of hiring and keeping on staff a seasoned CFO. For growing and established businesses with revenues up to $30 million (our typical client type), an outsourced CFO provides all of the expertise and accountability without needing to be kept on staff and on payroll at their pay scale. Instead, they can utilize the CFO services they require at the frequency they require, whether that is once a week, once a month or on a project basis.

What Are CFO Services?

Of course, CFO services vary just as greatly. CFO services run the gamut, from overseeing the totality of accounting and finance functions, securing funding or financing, engaging with other key professionals, ensuring regulatory compliance, reviewing and negotiating contracts and insurance or managing restructuring, buy outs and company turnarounds. From our startup clients seeking funding to our established businesses looking to explore new growth opportunities, the CFO role is an integral part of their development and decision process.

For more information on Outsourced CFO Services, please check out our recent blog post on About.com’s new Accounting Channel.

 

Smart Tools to Improve Cash Flow and Collections

No business can operate over the long term without generating sufficient cash inflows. Even a profitable firm will struggle if it can’t collect enough cash to fund operations. If cash collections are too slow, there are some great tools that can help you improve the process. When your business faces this challenge, an outside expert can help you address this critical issue.

Understanding Working Capital

Working capital, broadly defined as current assets less current liabilities, is needed to address cash flow and liquidity. In this case, “current” refers to 12 months or fewer. Current assets include cash and anything you expect to convert to cash within 12 months. Inventory and accounts receivable are two current assets that can be sources of cash. You collect on accounts receivable to generate cash and sell inventory to collect cash.

How Much Cash Do You Need?

If you need a system to collect receivables faster, how much cash is enough? How much cash do you need each week or month to operate your business? The answer to that question will be your collection goal for a given time period.

Technology can help you find out your cash needs quickly. As this article explains, Expensify is a mobile app that helps a business process and pay expenses remotely. The app will store your expense payment history. If you need a quick estimate of your firm’s expenses, you can check your Expensify activity.

If you find estimating your cash requirements difficult, an outsourced controller service can help by forecasting your required cash flow. The firm can also help you determine your cash needs and create a plan to collect cash faster.

Implementing Your Collection Plan

Assume that Bob’s commercial plumbing business requires $30,000 a week to operate. Bob’s outsourced controller helps him with this calculation. He realizes that the next step is to implement a cash collection program.

Quickbooks online accounting software offers a variety of reports to track your progress on cash collections. An aged accounts receivable report, for example, will group your receivables together, based on the date of each invoice. This report provides a quick snapshot of how fast you’re collecting receivables.

A lack of manpower can prevent a business from generating more cash flow and profit, as explained in this article. In this case, an outsourced controller sets up a system to generate and review accounts receivable aging reports each week. The controller sits down with company management and documents a formal collection policy. The plumbing firm follows up with delinquent customers using the new policy. Outsourcing this work helps the business collect cash faster.

 

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