How to Choose the Right Tax Planner & Advisor for Your Business

Taxes are part and parcel of doing business. And when something is so common and so expected, a funny thing happens—we tend to underestimate it. Business owners spend years refining their vision, honing their pitch, and hiring the people they need to succeed. But when it comes time to plan for taxes, more often than not, they take the “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it” approach. After all, there’s that family friend that’s a tax consultant and preparer, right?

And they did their personal taxes that one time, so how hard could it be to do business tax preparation? But even that may be more thought than the typical business owner gives to their business taxes. The reality is, it’s simply not a concern—until it is.

But that hands-off approach doesn’t affect how important taxes are. Mistakes cost money, and so do missed opportunities. Sometimes it’s mistakes like these that lead business owners to seek out tax preparation services. Other times, it’s the realization that they’re spending more time in front of tax preparation software than they are speaking with customers. If you’re reading this post, it likely means that you’ve deemed it the right time to seek out such services for your business.

So what should you consider when choosing the right tax planner or advisor to work with?

Understanding your business and what you need from a tax professional is key. Do you simply need help with taxes? Do your needs run deeper than that? Are you looking for assistance setting up your business entity? Or perhaps figuring out your payroll taxes? Having the right structures in place will help you avoid costly setbacks down the road. And understanding what you need will help you better assess what you’re looking for from a tax advisor.

Once you have an understanding of your needs, it’s important to look for a tax professional who understands your business—and who understands business in general. Skills in the realm of personal accounting don’t necessarily translate to business accounting. If you’re a small business owner, seek out a tax advisor who has experience working with small businesses, and preferably ones similar to your own.

A great idea is to ask around to other business owners. Here at Steiner Business Solutions, we’re proud of the work we’ve done for businesses in and around Richmond, VA, and it’s always a great feeling when we hear that someone found us after a positive conversation with an existing client.

Once you’ve located a tax professional familiar with your business and who comes highly recommended, it’s time to assess the rest of their offering. Are they available when you need them, or does it take a while to hear back? Does the tax advisor you’ve spoken with have the support of a dedicated team? A certified financial planner, an attorney, and a certified public accountant (CPA) or enrolled agent (EA) are valuable to have as part of the team.

Hiring the right tax advisor and planner will save your business money in the long run, so choose wisely. If you have any questions about your own business, whether you’re looking for advice on deferred compensation plans, income tax preparation, or anything else, be sure to contact us for a free initial financial consultation.

5​ ​Tax​ ​Strategies​ ​to​ ​Save​ ​Your​ ​Small​ ​Business​ ​Money

If you’re a small business owner it’s important to understand tax deductions. Read on to learn more about the ways in which you can get your ducks in a row before tax time rolls around, and to keep more money in your pocket.

1) Work from home? Deduct household expenses.

Whether you work from home full-time or part-time, you can deduct a portion of your everyday living expenses on your taxes. The key here is to have a dedicated section of your home that functions as an office. Unfortunately, if you work at the kitchen table or have a small desk in the guest room, you won’t be able to count either of these as a “home office.” But a spare room dedicated solely to your business will do the trick. From there, you may be able to deduct a percentage of your mortgage interest, insurance, utility bills, and even home repairs.

2) You can deduct auto expenses too.

If you use your car in your line of work, whether directly or to drive to meetings, then car expenses can also make their way to your tax deductions. There are two ways to do this. Deducting actual car expenses, such as gas, repairs, and insurance, will require you to calculate what percentage of your vehicle usage was for your business, and work out the deduction amounts from there. It may be simpler to use the standard mileage rate, where you multiply the number of miles you’ve driven for business by the standard mileage rate for the year. This can be found on the IRS website.

3) Invest in your future, tax free.

Whether you’re the sole employee of your business or you’ve got other folks working for you, contributing to a retirement account or accounts is a great way to lower your taxable income. Any contributions to a retirement plan are tax free. And that’s not all. Assets in a retirement plan grow tax-free. Taxes come due when distributions are taken from the fund later on down the line.

4) Don’t forget about business lunches.

50 percent of business-related meal costs can be deducted. People’s minds go immediately to lunch meetings with clients or potential clients. But don’t forget about special lunches for employees, such as a pizza Friday or birthday celebration. Fair warning: Folks tend to go overboard here. Try to view company funds in the same way you do personal funds. Stay within reasonable bounds—avoid lobster Fridays for instance—and these deductions offer a great way to save money and have a good time doing it.

5) Get some help.

You know who might know more about small business tax preparation? An experienced tax professional! We’ve got a number of talented and smart folks here at Steiner Business Solutions that can help you get your tax strategies in order. We can provide valuable insight that comes with our years of experience working with hundreds of small business owners . Especially when you’re just starting out, the guidance provided by a knowledgeable professional can be invaluable.

Contact us today to help put together your tax reduction strategy.

Accounting Practices that Will Save Your Business Money

When you’re running a small business, every penny counts, especially as you’re getting off the ground. By making the right decisions, you can spend money where it counts most, getting the kinds of returns that will ensure your business goes the distance.

Accurate and timely bookkeeping is the secret to success for businesses large and small, new and established. Starting off with intelligent bookkeeping from the get-go, and keeping it as a priority as your business matures will save you a lot of headache and heartache, and give you the foundation you need to succeed.

Keep Business and Personal Accounts Separate

Even with the best of intentions, it becomes easy to lose track of where personal expenses end and business expenses begin, especially in the early days of your business. Keeping two separate bank accounts from the start will make life much less complicated. Make sure your business account has both checking and a dedicated credit card. With all the expenses in one place, you won’t waste precious time trying to figure out what goes where. You can also take advantage of rewards or cash back to put toward your business.

Prepare for Taxes Year-Round

Business tax preparation should be an ongoing priority. When you’re running a business, you don’t want surprises. And if you wait until the last minute to prepare for your taxes, that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Tracking, labeling, and categorizing expenses diligently throughout the year will save you from making unwanted errors, and help you take advantage of tax write-offs and credits.

Plan for Major Expenses

To run your business well, you need to keep an eye on the future, and that includes major expenses. Whether it’s an expensive system upgrade, new hardware, or tax deadlines, you should be preparing for major expenses well before they come due. Set aside money accordingly, and maintain an accurate understanding of the money you actually have versus what’s already earmarked for spending.

Set Time Aside to Handle Your Finances

The problem with ever-present tasks like bookkeeping is that they have a way of being put off. “I’ll take care of it next week” turns into “I’ll get to it next month,” and then all of a sudden you arrive at “Oh no, I can’t believe I didn’t do this!” To avoid the panic that comes from falling behind on your bookkeeping, schedule time each week to dedicate to your finances. Not only will this help you avoid making mistakes, it will also save time, as you won’t have to rack your brain trying to remember what that pile of six-month-old receipts was for.

Invest in Bookkeeping

A good investment provides tangible returns on the money you put in. If all of this advice is making your head spin, skilled bookkeeping services might be a sound investment. You’ll gain peace of mind knowing that your records are up-to-date and orderly. Free from the often tedious responsibility of bookkeeping, you’ll be able to invest your own time more wisely. And that’s not all. A knowledgeable bookkeeper can help you plan for potential fees, and take advantage of loopholes, deductions, and tax advantages that you may otherwise miss. An investment in bookkeeping services pays dividends you can take to the bank.

Contact Steiner Business Solutions in Richmond, VA for your small business bookkeeping needs.

Need a change of scenery? We’re Hiring!

Steiner Business Solutions is looking for a talented CPA or EA to join our Tax Services Division. This is a full-time hire with a great compensation package, including benefits. Our culture is relaxed and fun. You won’t have the obscene hours you find at most CPA firms; you can dress casually; and with our flex arrangement and cloud based system, you can work many of your hours remotely. Yes, this is possible in RVA! Of course your main function will be preparing tax returns and providing tax planning for our small business clients, but you will also have the opportunity to provide other key services we offer during the off season. If you want to find out why we’re one of the fastest growing accounting firms in Richmond, you should send your resume to dsteiner@steinerbusinesssolutions.com right now. You never know unless you ask!

Bad Advice We’ve Heard About Bookkeeping

 

Read about bad bookkeeping advice you should shy away from.

Like anything essential—eating, sleeping, running a small business—we all strive to maximize the impact of our efforts. That makes us eager knowledge seekers, looking to learn as much as we can and apply our newfound insights to our own lives. Our eagerness often has the unintended consequence of sending us into the open arms of some bad advice. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of it out there.

The business realm is, unfortunately, no exception. While we’ve seen plenty of bad business advice, some of the worst is reserved for bookkeeping. If you’re looking for advice on bookkeeping, chances are good you’re trying to improve your business, which means bad advice can set you on the wrong path. We’ve rounded up some “tips” it would be wise to disregard.

#1 – Use a Family Member to Save Money

When you’re starting your business, it’s OK to  start with family help, but as you grow, this can become a serious problem, especially if they are not a bookkeeping expert. 

As a business grows, bookkeeping becomes a time-consuming task and becomes more complex.  If you don’t keep up with it you’re going to be in trouble.  And it’s not something you can put off. Here at Steiner Business Solutions, we’ve heard countless stories from well-meaning family members who have been overwhelmed by their bookkeeping efforts as a business grows, watching in frustration as their to-do list grows longer while bookkeeping takes more and more of their time. And this isn’t the only danger. Bookkeeping is a specialized task, so the lack of a trained professional who focuses on bookkeeping could have major detrimental effects on your business down the line.

#2 – Just Use a Spreadsheet to Keep Your Books

Everyone has a certain suite of office-related software programs on their computer.  And if not, there are plenty of free versions available. Using one of these spreadsheet programs can hurt your bookkeeping efforts or not give you the results in the format you or your CPA need. 

Like all bad advice, this sounds good in theory. After all, many of us are already well-versed in computer-based spreadsheet programs, using formulas and other tools to crunch numbers quickly. But formula errors are easier to make than you think. And as your business grows, chances are you’ll need your all-purpose spreadsheet program to do some very complicated tasks. Rather than wasting time reinventing the wheel and creating something cumbersome, invest in a dedicated bookkeeping software tool.

#3 – Growth Above All Else

To get your business off the ground, you need to maintain a singular focus on growth.  As your initial profits come in, reinvest them immediately and keep the momentum going!

Many business owners think, especially in the early days of their business, that the best use of any money made is reinvestment in the business.  And we can’t blame them for thinking this way.  After all, when you’re struggling to keep the lights on, it seems silly to set money aside. But if you don’t, April 15th—Tax Day—is going to come at you hard and fast. Keeping an ever-present eye on taxes, and setting aside money each month, may seem counterintuitive, but it will keep you safe from a sudden shock that could very well knock the wind out of your burgeoning business.

To help you take control of your bookkeeping, we offer a range of basic to full charge bookkeeping services here at Steiner Business Solutions.

7 Ways Bookkeeping Impacts a Small Business

Bookkeeping can make several impacts to a small business, including the customer experience and profitability if only business owners would manage it.

Richmond runs on the success of the many small businesses that provide services and products to the local community.  As a small business owner, it’s essential that you manage all financial aspects of your operation to go to the next level.

Even the best business plan and product offering can result in business failure if you don’t keep track of finances to truly understand your revenue and expenses. That’s where bookkeeping becomes essential to your business.

What Bookkeeping Items Should You Manage in Your Business ?

To make effective business decisions, you need to know where your cash is coming from, and where it’s going. Details of sales and expenses are critical, as well as an understanding of accounting principles that apply to your business, including any tax implications.

This knowledge – or lack of – can impact your business in many ways:

1. Tracking Expenses

It’s easy to lose track of where your capital goes, with business meetings, purchasing supplies, labor expenses, and so many other day-to-day activities. Bookkeeping processes accumulate all such expenses not only to get an accurate audit of where the money goes, but to keep a record for tax purposes, as well.

2. Missed Opportunities

There are times when it may be advantageous for your business to purchase larger volumes of supplies or invest in new product development. Without an accurate picture of your cash flow and account balances, you may not know whether you can leverage your funds to benefit from such opportunities.

3. Overpayments

Recording and filing invoices from your suppliers is essential to ensure payments are made accurately, and only once. Duplicate payments cost you money. Getting reimbursed for overpayments negatively impacts cash flow, and results in lost time for you or your employees.

4. Late Fees and Missed Discounts

When you don’t pay invoices on time, late fees can offset your profits and damage vendor relationships. Paying promptly in many cases can be rewarded with discounts from your suppliers. Accurate bookkeeping ensures on-time payments and the ability to capitalize on available discounts.

5. Bank Account Reconciliation

As a small business owner, you certainly have bank accounts both for depositing receipts and making payments to vendors or generating payroll for your employees. Bookkeeping activities include reconciling bank account balances to your financial ledger, to make sure all financial activities are accounted for accurately, with any discrepancies being resolved in a timely manner.

6. Financial Strategy

As your small business grows, you may need a more complex financial strategy to make business decisions such as approaching new business markets, investing in equipment or larger facilities, and long-term goals.

Business-critical decisions will benefit from an experienced financial expert such as a CFO. When you cannot justify a full-time employee with such credentials, an alternative is to seek the expertise outside, engaging a fractional CFO for assistance.

7. Tax Preparation and Reporting

Like it or not, you will need to pay taxes as part of owning your small business. Without accurate records, tax preparation will be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Good bookkeeping practices will ensure you get all the tax benefits you’re entitled to, and file accurate tax returns.

Bookkeeping Solutions

Performing bookkeeping tasks requires an understanding of what needs to be accounted for and how to categorize financial activities such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, and business expenses.

You may start out with a do-it-yourself approach, incorporating the use of a general-use software package such as QuickBooks, to facilitate your accounting and reporting needs. Even taking that route should include some level of training, to get the most from the use of the software.

Another alternative is to outsource or hire an accountant or bookkeeper, who can manage the books for you.  Many small business owners feel they need to hire an employee, but consider outsourcing before you truly realize the amount of time it takes to do your bookkeeping.  Outsourcing has many benefits and is typically a good “bridge” before hiring staff.

Getting the Right Help with your Bookkeeping

As a small business owner, you may have great confidence in your products or services, and certainly your entrepreneurship, but you may not have the background and expertise in bookkeeping needed to establish a good accounting system or financial foundation.

You may simply determine as a small business owner that bookkeeping is not the most effective use of your time and existing personnel resources. When that’s the case, you have an alternative solution.

Outsourcing your bookkeeping needs to competent, professional bookkeeping services can actually save your business money in several ways:

  • Improved cash flow
  • Avoiding duplicate or late payments
  • Taking advantage of any potential tax benefits
  • Making informed, strategic financial decisions
  • Reduced labor expenses and missed time off
  • Minimal, if any, training

Steiner Business Solutions is your complete small business bookkeeping partner, providing expert services without the overhead or investment in full-time personnel.

NET30 Acquired by Steiner Business Solutions

Steiner Business Solutions is excited to announce that we have acquired NET 30 – another Richmond, Virginia bookkeeping and bill paying firm, effective June 5th, 2017. The NET 30 team is still together so you should see no drop in service as we work through the integration. The merger with NET 3o allows us to offer our clients even more valuable services, so we invite you to check out their website www.net30.net for more information. Call us if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to a bright future!

Here’s an article published by Richmond BizSense about the acquisition:

A year after buying a piece of a local chocolate maker, Dan Steiner is in deal-making mode again, this time acquiring a competitor of his bookkeeping company.

His Steiner Business Solutions closed last week on the acquisition of Net30, a longtime local firm that offers similar services and serves similar clients. The deal nearly doubles the size of Steiner’s company.

The transaction was finalized Friday. Terms were not disclosed.

Steiner, who started his firm in 2006, said the deal capitalizes on a trend in the bookkeeping industry of retirement-age owners looking for an exit strategy. Read the Full Article here.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On QuickBooks for Small Business

Today’s small business can effectively implement QuickBooks into their day-to-day accounting and bookkeeping practices easily.

With the right QuickBooks training, it becomes possible to streamline many operations within the company – from payroll to accounts receivable.

For companies in Richmond looking to jumpstart their QuickBooks efforts, consider these tips.

Get the Commands Down

A good place to start is with having a handy checklist of each of the most commonly used commands within QuickBooks. The best way to make the most out of this software is to be able to tell it what you need to do quickly.

Here are some of the most commonly used commands and how to access them.

  • Invoice a customer by going to “Customers” and then “Create Invoices.”
  • To manage banking, go under the “Banking” tab. There, you can transfer funds, write checks, make deposits, or reconcile your account.
  • Set up your Chart of Accounts and Product/Service Items by going under “Lists”.
  • Perhaps one of the most important management tools for owners is the Profit and Loss Statement – available any time. Go to “Reports.” Then, navigate to “Company & Financial,” “Profit & Loss Standard.”

It’s very easy to navigate the system. Once you get basic QuickBooks training, this becomes even easier to accomplish.

How Can You Use QuickBooks to Benefit Your Company?

There are many ways to achieve these goals. Here are a few quick tips to help you.

  • Use the software to get accounts receivable invoices out to customers sooner. You can do this by going to “Customers” and then “Create Invoices.” By setting this up, it can automatically send invoices to your customers, encouraging faster payment for services or sales.
  • Utilize the profit and loss statement routinely. This is no longer a monthly product. You can gather profit information at any time by using this statement. It’s also possible to pull a “Net Worth” for the company under the “Reports” for more information.
  • Manage all of your vendor information in one place. Under the “Vendors” tab, locate the tabs to record when items are received, manage accounts payable, and to prepare a purchase order. This, again, makes it easy to manage the entire process.

Automate as much of your accounting as possible. QuickBooks makes this easy to do. You can automate:

  • Importing transactions directly from the bank
  • Memorize recurring transactions so they post automatically at designated times
  • Invoicing
  • Recording checks

QuickBooks is very user friendly; allowing access to functions through multiple menus.  The Help feature is very useful, so utilize it when you get “stuck”.

Keep in mind that having our Richmond QuickBooks certified professionals train you and/or your staff on QuickBooks will make them more efficient with the software and you’ll be confident that you’re getting the maximum value out of QuickBooks.

5 Bookkeeping Best Practices for a Small Business

Most small business owners we talk to think that running a successful business involves hard work and loving what you do. While those two things are important, if you actually own a business, you know there are a few more details involved.

One extremely important factor is bookkeeping. Bookkeeping is frequently an overlooked area in small business as it does not hold the flash and appeal that some other areas of owning a business hold.

The good news is when it comes down to it, there are only a handful of things that actually matter. The sooner you incorporate the following five bookkeeping best practices, the sooner you can get back to focusing on working hard at what you love.

1.  Not One-Size-Fits-All

Bookkeeping is something that will differ from one small business to another. Specifically, you need to find a way to structure your accounts that makes sense for your unique business.

Far too often, small business owners pick a template that works for others and assume they can fit their finances into this structure. Unfortunately, this practice comes at the cost of efficiency and accuracy, two things that should always be a part of bookkeeping.

It’s fine if you need to revise your approach a bit as time goes on. The important thing is that you come up with an account structure that fits your business like a glove.

2. Organize Your Expenses

Over time, you’ll most likely increase the number of credit cards and checking accounts you use for your small business. The number of expenses will probably increase, too.

Successful bookkeeping for small businesses thrives on consistency. When you look at your books after a year, you should see that the same expenses were paid the same way at around the same time, month after month.

This kind of consistent bookkeeping will make accounting much easier. It can also help identify fraudulent transactions.

3. Keep an Eye Out for Fraudulent Transactions

Speaking of which, you need to recognize that fraudulent transactions are real threats. This is why paying with credit cards is important. It makes it easier to reduce fraudulent payments.

Nonetheless, you still want to be vigilant. Any amount of bookkeeping should involve reviewing records to look for fraudulent practices like:

  • Fake Invoicing
  • Diverting Payments to Third-Parties
  • Profit Skimming
  • Misuse of Company Assets

Even if you’re the sole employee of your company, someone else could be using your credit card, so don’t assume your books can go without the fine-toothed-comb treatment.

4. Update and Reconcile Your Books Once a Month

Bookkeeping is something you should be doing once a month at a minimum, especially for a small business.

For one thing, this will help you catch fraudulent transactions before they grow into more expensive problems.

You might catch other accounting problems this way, too. By regularly checking your books, you’ll become far more familiar with how your business spends money, which leads us to our last best practice.

5. Make Cost-Reduction Efforts a Priority

While bookkeeping for small businesses generally only refers to accounting, that doesn’t mean you can’t take this opportunity to reduce your expenses, too.

Get in the habit of identifying where you spend the most money so you can work at reducing that overhead. You’ll have an easy time tracking your efforts because you’ll be checking in every time you open your books.

Entrust Your Bookkeeping Needs to Professionals

Since 2006, Steiner Business Solutions has been handling small business bookkeeping in Richmond, VA. We offer flexible, customized bookkeeping solutions, so you can choose the one that fits your needs best. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Network and Learn About Steiner Business Solutions

Mark Stewart, partner in our new Scott’s Addition office, is one of the guest speakers at the next Gather Spotlight event on November 17th in downtown Richmond.  Come meet Mark and hear more about Steiner Business Solutions! Should be a well attended event. Register using the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/gather-spotlight-november-2016-tickets-28584261295