Top 100 Quickbooks Pro-Advisor Voting Now Open

After consulting in Quickbooks since 1995 and helping hundreds of Quickbooks users learn Quickbooks, I’ve been nominated as a Top 100 Quickbooks Pro-Advisor.   It’s an honor to have helped so many users get more out of Quickbooks and clean up their Quickbooks messes.

I am dedicated to helping my clients learn and  succeed.  If you wouldn’t mind taking a moment  and voting for me, Tirena Jones at the following link:   Vote Here

I would very much appreciate it!

Warm Regards,

Tirena Jones

Quickbooks Shortcuts

Did you know there are at least 60 keyboard shortcuts you can use to speed up your Quickbooks usage? For example,  If you press the “T” in the date field you get today’s date, press the + key and you get tomorrows date. .  And  any numeric field can be used as a calculator, just press the + button on the keyboard to start a calculation. Want to quickly write a check, hit Control W.  To get the complete list of Quickbooks shortcuts, download them here  Quickbooks keyboard shortcuts.

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Best Practices in 1099 Reporting

The 2016 1099 deadline is just slightly over a week away. This year, one major change affects 1099 issuers in the US. The due date for sending Form 1096 to the IRS has been moved up from February 28th to January 31. For many, this adds an additional time pressure to ensure all of the information is correct and ready to submit on time.

My clients frequently ask for guidance on best practices in keeping track of the requirements. One of the biggest headaches this time of year is trying to get W-9 information from vendors who slipped through the cracks.

The best practice, of course, is to request W-9 information before a check is issued. While this isn’t always the case, there are some other “hacks” to make this process go more smoothly.

1. You don’t necessarily need a formal W-9 if another form contains substantially the same information.You can develop your own form for purposes of collecting the same information if you include the certification requirements.   However, if you’ve received a “B” Notice for the recipient in the past, follow the instructions on that notice.

2. In Quickbooks, you can save a lot time by including the word INC or CORP in the vendor name if the company is a Corporation. Unless an exception applies (like Legal fees), corporations are generally not subject to 1099 reporting. Refer to the 1099 instructions for more information. LLC’s can be a source of confusion as an LLC can be taxed in several different ways. How the LLC is taxed determines whether or not a 1099 is issued. Partnerships, sole proprietors and individuals are not exempt from reporting.

3. If a payee won’t provide a Tax ID number, I usually send a final letter highlighting the “Refusal to provide TIN” section of the W-9 instructions. Failure to provide a TIN can trigger a $50 IRS penalty. If they still won’t comply, I file the 1099 with the words “REFUSED” in the TIN field. Keep proof of your diligence in trying to comply with the requirements.

4. If you are still regularly paying a vendor who will not provide a tax ID number, you may have to resort to back-up withholding. Refer to the link to the instructions below.

5. When requesting W-9 forms , provide the entire form (all 4 pages) there is a wealth of information in the instructions. Many B notices can be avoided simply by adhering to these instructions.

6. Use the notes field in the vendor screen in Quickbooks to keep track of 1099 issues. You can also scan and attach the W-9 for future reference.

7. Do a 1099 checkup quarterly to see which information is missing (which of course should be none if you get it before payment is issued). It can be difficult to track down vendors months after they are paid to obtain their information. Don’t wait until December or January to start tracking down missed information.

8. Save your blank forms for a few months in case you have to issue a corrected or missed form. I avoid using the IRS forms as they’ve always jammed my printers.

9. Last minute filing? There are many electronic filing providers who charge roughly $3-5 per form and take care of the 1096 filing and recipient copies as well. I’ve used Yearli and Intuit on line payroll in the past which both work well.

10. If your company handles a large number of vendors, develop a vendor on-boarding process to reduce 1099 headaches. I’ve seen a number of Quickbooks files that don’t utilize the vendor contact information fields which can be a good source of information.

11. Many times vendors are duplicated in Quickbooks. You’ll need to fix that before issuing 1099’s. The easiest way to correct duplicates is by merging the vendor names. Go to the Quickbooks vendor file, copy the vendor name of the vendor you want to keep, then open the vendor you want to merge. Rename that vendor exactly the same name, punctuation and all. A box will pop up asking if you want to merge (this cannot be undone).

12. When in doubt, read the instructions:

Form W-9

IRS 1099 Instructions

Managing the Cash Flow Crunch of Business Growth

Businesses in a heavy growth phase may experience an extreme cash crunch due to ever increasing demands of a growing enterprise. 

Cash flow is vital but how to control it?
1. If you extend credit, be sure to monitor accounts receivable regularly. Have a person who is dedicated to watching the A/R at least on a weekly basis. If necessary, tighten the credit policy based on a customers’ history. It’s far better to lose a sale then to not get paid for service or product already delivered.
2. Avoid auto pay for bill payments. It can be easy and tempting to set up all of your bills on auto pay but what happens when you fall a little short of cash one month? Yep, everything either bounces or you rack up hundreds in overdraft fees. A better idea, use the on-line bill payment features but you decide when it gets deducted. This allows you to pay things slightly late if you have to but avoid bank fees that can overdraw your bank account quickly. In some cases the late fee for the bill you had on auto pay is lower than the overdraft charge.
3. If you are not able to pay a bill, it’s best to contact your creditors and be honest and up front with them. Avoiding their calls and letters is provoking and can result in more late fees or legal action. Dealing with the issue pro-actively helps in preserving your future credit and your vendor relationships. This advice rings especially true if you owe any back taxes. Call or write the tax agency without delay to make a payment plan and let them know you are not evading your payments.
4. Know what your break even point is for cash flow. Do you know what your minimum monthly cash requirements are to meet basic operating expenses and debt payments? If you don’t meet the minimum, how will the shortfall be met? Answering these questions is an absolute necessity.
5. If cash flow is volatile, keep your payments flexible. It may not be best to sign up for any long-term contracts or leases if you can’t project solid cash flow in the near future.
6. Have a contingency plan for each stage of your business. If sales are x, then we will do y. Keep the plan flexible and be aware of your situation at all times.

7. Stop the money leaks in your business.  Even when you’re flush with cash, build good management practices by monitoring and eliminating wasteful spending. 

Cash flow is the life blood of any business and needs constant monitoring and attention. This is particularly true during high cash flow seasons as well. The biggest cash flow problems I’ve seen have been businesses that have a lot of cash, get complacent, then end up in a crunch because of poor or no planning. 

Read about stopping the “money leaks” in your business and Download a free report for more tips. 

Quickbooks Reconciliations: Not Just for Banking

Most Quickbooks users are familiar with doing monthly bank reconciliations and the importance of doing so. Some reconcile credit cards on a regular basis as well (good job!). That’s where most reconciliations end, but don’t have to.  The bank reconciliation feature in Quickbooks (both Desktop and On-line) can be used to reconcile any balance sheet account, such as :

  1. Car and equipment loans
  2. Employee advances
  3. Customer deposits
  4. Retention
  5. Accrued expenses
  6. Prepaid expenses
  7. Fixed assets
  8. Prepaid revenue

Beginners/Moderate Users: I’d start using this for things like car or equipment loans (that you get a statement for or have an amortization schedule for. This way you can enter the interest at the same time.   After you master that, then I’d go to more complex accounts.

Advanced users: This can be used for the more complex reconciliations, for instance a prepaid expense account.  There are lots of entries and some of them have been amortized out, some haven’t and some are just errors. Finding what makes up that balance can take a day of spreadsheet work , but doesn’t have to if you regularly use this feature.

The most difficult part of the process will probably be finding a starting balance and clearing out any old transactions in there. After that, this can become part of your monthly close process and save all that scrambling at tax time.

To get started:

  1. Find a good starting balance. Let’s say you have one for 12/31/15.
  2. Go to the reconciliation screen and select the proper account .
  3. Enter the starting balance and the date (as our example) 12/31/15 as the account “ending” balance.
  4. Click “hide transactions after statement end date”.
  5. Clear all of the transactions to that date, the variance should be zero.
  6. Reconcile the account periodically just like a bank or credit card statement.

Using this feature on a regular basis can help save all of that spreadsheet work, hours of searching for errors and cumbersome tracking.

 

Top 7 Budgeting Pitfalls

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – Peter Drucker

 

A lot of businesses are starting their 2017 budgeting process right now. A budget is a critical tool for all successful businesses. However, many budgets fall short of providing the financial guidance that managers and owners desperately need. Having prepared numerous budgets, I’ve discovered first hand the pitfalls and key requirements of creating a viable budget. The budgeting mistakes most commonly made include:

  1. Underestimating the cost of expansion. So you own one auto repair shop, opening another should be twice the cost, right? Wrong, expansion frequently means that overhead must increase to handle the additional workload. Don’t forget the additional managerial time and resources required. I recommend a cash flow cushion to help cover any unforeseen costs.
  2. Overestimating revenue. Just because we desperately hope revenue will increase by 20% doesn’t make it a viable budget number. Revenue projections should be based on a combination of historical figures adjusted for inflation and current market and industry conditions. Additionally, if the company has sustained a major change such as a merger or substantial downsizing, you have to consider the ability of the company to meet previous revenue levels. Generally I advise to remain conservative as much of the budget is typically revenue dependent.
  3. Overly optimistic expense budgeting. It’s easy to forget about those once a year expenses but also easy to be overly optimistic about cost cutting. You have to review historical trends here and watch out for that “miscellaneous” category. Also make sure that you have a cushion for those unexpected expenses or any known upcoming changes.
  4. Not having multiple budgets. There are multiple scenarios that can occur and you should be prepared for most of them. Create several budgets based on what the foreseeable future brings. That way you have a map if things take a rough turn down the road.
  5. Not asking for help. The employees know more about revenue and costs than you may think. You can gain valuable information by asking your employees how to cut costs and improve sales, they’ll even give you new ideas. Additionally, they’ll feel valued and will be on board for making any changes that otherwise may be difficult to implement.
  6. Not using the budget. After the budget is done, don’t file it away. Use it to analyze results and improve the process. Constant monitoring is critical to being successful in these economic times. The budget is the first step in creating a strong financial reporting system.
  7. Not sharing the results. If you’ve experienced positive results due to an employee’s or manager’s suggestion, make sure you give credit where credit is due. On the flip side if results are not favorable, be sure to inform but not blame. This information can serve as extra motivation to continue or change behaviors depending on the desired outcome.

What if you don’t have a budget or even know where to start? Most financial software offer tool (Quickbooks has a good budget tool). Budgeting is a key component in our Business PLUS Program, click here for more details.

Not Just the Numbers

I believe that every decision a business owner makes affects the bottom line. Therefore I employ a holistic approach to finance. Everything in an organization is interrelated. Accounting is just the method to report how well (or poorly) the business is performing.

Understanding the relationship between management decisions and financial results is key to improving overall performance.

Using  financial and business analysis tools, business owners need to review how each person and process directly or indirectly effects the finances of the company. If the end goal is to maximize profits, then each business process and employee has to work together toward that goal. If a bad process hinders employee performance or an employee doesn’t follow a critical business process, a breakdown is sure to follow and profitability can suffer (it often does).

Questions I often ask when working with clients:

  1. What’s your marketing strategy? Aren’t you my accountant, you know, the numbers person, what’s marketing have to do with it? Poor marketing efforts often results in inadequate revenue. Or buying too much advertising in what I like to call “spray and pray” marketing can be a huge waste of cash with little or no return. A good marketing plan with strong execution and perhaps most importantly, results monitoring, is critical.
  2. Do you have happy employees? And this relates to accounting how, exactly? High turnover increases your training costs, unemployment costs and results in lower productivity. Every time you have to re-train someone you lose time and money. Further, unhappy employees many not be as productive and take more sick days. Unhappy employees may reduce overall morale which could come out as poor customer service. Poor customer service may mean lost customers, therefore reducing revenue.
  3. Do you have good operations policies and strong execution? Aren’t you supposed to be crunching numbers in the back office? By operating your business efficiently, you reduce costs. Efficiencies are gained by establishing clear protocols on how operations are handled. Overhead is usually a key expenditure for most businesses. By managing your overhead correctly you can maximize profits. This doesn’t always mean cutting costs though. Growing companies have to be careful when planning overhead, which is where having good operations comes into play. With too little infrastructure, your company may not be able handle any more growth. Too much infrastructure may sink your ship. Good analysis and planning can help determine where you need to be.
  4. Do you know your break even point or profit drivers? Ok this sounds like your job. This is when “crunching numbers” is critical. Unfortunately, many financial professionals are too backward looking. I use historical data coupled with reasonable growth forecasts to help business owners determine the best strategy for moving forward.

By employing this “holistic” approach I believe business owners can dramatically improve their bottom line, have happier employees and a more rewarding business.