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The Ultimate Year-End Accounting Checklist: How To Close The Books At The End Of The Fiscal Year

Ready to learn how to close the books at year-end? Start with these 17 easy steps, and you'll be closing your year-end books in no time.

    Erica Seppala
  • 14 comments
  • Updated on:
Advertiser Disclosure: Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity. You've heard about closing the books, but how do you do it? Follow these simple year-end accounting steps
Erica Seppala

Erica Seppala

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
An expert in accounting, finance, and point of sale, Erica has been researching and writing about all things small-business since 2018. Erica's insights into personal and business finance have been cited in numerous publications, including MSN, Real Simple, and Reader's Digest. She is a graduate of Limestone College.
Erica Seppala
View Erica Seppala's professional experience on LinkedIn.

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14 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Marc forestier

    How long should it take to do year end books? What’s a reasonable time frame from the time you end your year to having the books put out for partners to see?

      Jessica Dinsmore

      Hi Marc,

      It really does vary based on a number of factors. Some businesses have more complex accounting needs, which could extend the process. Some businesses may opt to hire an accountant, which could expedite the process. A business that hasn’t been keeping up with the books throughout the year may face a much longer process in getting everything cleaned up. Generally, it seems that the consensus is that year-end bookkeeping commonly takes several weeks, with an average of around 20 to 25 days. Best wishes for a speedy process!

        L

        Thanks so much for the information.

          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

          Marcy

          Hi Chelsea,
          Great article, thank you! I have a crazy question…I am working with a small business and the company is currently using Quickbooks Pro 2018 version. Their books have not been closed for over five years. They thought that closing was automatically done in Quickbooks.
          I see obsolete assets and liabilities on their balance sheet–what would you advise doing? Start a new Company file from scratch?

            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

            Jessica Dinsmore

            Hi Marcy,

            Great question! You do not need to start a new company file from scratch, you just need to clean up the current file. It would cause more issues if you were just to start a new file and lose the old historical data. If you do really want a new file, you should clean up the current one and then enter accurate beginning numbers into a new file.

            The first step would be to catch up on the bank reconciliations. Any obsolete liabilities can be corrected either with the use of a Journal Entry or Vendor Credit Memo to remove the liability in the most recent year (in which they have not yet filed taxes & is not closed). Any obsolete assets can also be removed with the proper Journal Entry, however, you need to be more careful with this one and may need to run the entry by their tax preparer first. There is typically depreciation associated with an asset that will need to be removed as well. Their tax preparer should be providing them with a list of assets each year (that matches the balance sheet) and should be asking if any of them are obsolete, sold, scrapped, etc. Best of luck!

              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

              Theresa Turner

              It is a very Informative post.

                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                Chelsea Krause

                I’m glad you found the information helpful, Theresa! Thanks for reading!

                -Chelsea Krause

                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                  Mickie

                  Chelsea,
                  I’m new to small business bookkeeping. The business has been dormant for the first few months of the year and not sure how to start fresh books for 2019. Using QB2018. Do you have a guide for starting a new year?

                  Thanks in advance
                  Mickie

                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                    Chelsea Krause

                    Hi Mickie,

                    Thanks for reaching out! This post, while a bit dated, offers helpful insight on how to prepare your books for a new year. If you’re wanting to know how to start fresh in QuickBooks, this article can help.

                    Best wishes,

                    – Chelsea Krause

                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                      Caren

                      Great information. I have a question.

                      After going through year end for corporate taxes, I found a few invoices were unpaid. We email, mail and fax invoices to clients. This client said they never received and closed their books. So I would assume they billed their client and failed to pay us…and are using the excuse of that they closed their book as reason to not pay. A repeat customer, not one that we’ve had issues with. A customer we give special pricing to, great lead times. So what do we do? It’s less than $500 but I expect payment for service. Am I wrong to ask for for what’s owed?

                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                        Chelsea Krause

                        Hi Caren,

                        I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. I’ve found a few articles that offer helpful advice on how to take action against non-paying customers: Ghosted: What To Do When A Client Doesn’t Pay Up and What To Do When A Client Doesn’t Pay. If these steps don’t work and your client absolutely refuses to pay, you can write off the invoiced amount as “bad debt” for a tax deduction. Here’s how the process works.

                        I’d also recommend consulting your accountant to see if they have any additional advice for how to deal with this situation. I hope this helps and that everything works out well.

                        Best wishes,

                        -Chelsea Krause

                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                          Tina Gunderson

                          My question is are you able to input information that happened after January 1, 2018 but was for the year 2017 in accounting software? Example, $3,000 worth of expenses that were not transferred to the proper accounts until January, can I transfer them in my software as 12/31/2017 so my accounts zero out?

                            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                            Chelsea Krause

                            Hi Tina,

                            Could you tell me more of the specifics of the transaction you are trying to enter? Also, which accounting software are you using?

                            -Chelsea Krause

                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                              Joel

                              Thank you, Chelsea for great article! So true.
                              I run a small retail business. We usually don`t have much time to keep and enter receipts and last year we found that we even lost many. Not taking into account those mail receipts that you get when you or your employees shop online for the small staff.
                              We have tried many of the expense management software lately but were surprised about the level of detail and all those features that seem to be created exactly for small business needs. So if anyone would be interested, just try Veryfi app. Good thing is that my accountant has constant access to this app, and see all the company`s financial info in real-time and can advise right away. Helps a lot with taxes.

                                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

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