Simplify Your Small Business’s Year-End Accounting With These 9 Easy Tips
It’s that time of year again — time for holiday parties, sparking lights and decorations, and gifts under the tree. As a small business owner, the holidays can add even more to your already full plate (and no, we’re not talking about your big family dinner). One of the most wonderful times of the year can quickly become one of the most dreaded for small business owners and entrepreneurs because of one little phrase: year-end accounting.
Despite being a hassle, though, year-end accounting serves several important functions. The year-end accounting process helps you prepare for tax time. You’ll also run critical financial reports that give you a clear picture of the financial health of your business. This helps you determine any action you need to take in the future to stay on track, boost your profits, or hit other company-wide goals.
Every business owner needs to do their year-end accounting. The good news, however, is that there are steps you can take to simplify the process. Some of these steps can be done at the end of your company’s calendar or fiscal year, while other steps are performed on an ongoing basis. Integrate these tips into your accounting workflow to save time, avoid overlooking errors, and be prepared for your year-end accounting process.
Table of Contents
- Use Accounting Software
- Regularly Invoice Customers
- Keep Track Of Your Income & Expenses Throughout The Year
- Reconcile Your Bank Accounts Every Month
- Separate All Personal & Business Expenses
- Count Your Inventory At The Beginning Of The Year
- Run Year-End Reports
- Take Care Of Year-End Payroll
- Lock Your Closing Periods
- Start Fresh In The New Year
Use Accounting Software
If your business isn’t already using accounting software, what are you waiting for? Today’s accounting software allows you to keep your transactions organized and automates processes such as reconciling bank accounts or sending payment reminders. Depending on the software you choose, you’ll have access to a variety of accounting features that can help you throughout the year … and at the end of the year. This includes invoicing, estimates, expense tracking, inventory management, and time tracking. Your accounting software also allows you to run important financial reports needed for year-end accounting. If you’re new to accounting, don’t worry — most software is easy enough for anyone to use, even if you didn’t major in accounting! (If you don’t believe us, check out our top easy accounting programs.)
The software you choose should fit the needs of your business. For example, if you operate a small business with a handful of clients and only need basic features like invoicing and reporting, free accounting software may work for you. If you have a larger business with more extensive accounting needs, there are plenty of paid options available that offer additional features at an affordable price.
As the end of the year approaches, selecting and learning how to use your new accounting software can be a burden to a busy business owner. If your end-of-year to-do list is too long to add a new task, take some time to at least explore your options so you can have a fresh start for the new year.
Regularly Invoice Customers
Regularly invoicing your customers is necessary for a number of reasons. Not only does this help improve the cash flow of your business, but it also saves time with year-end accounting. In other words, don’t wait until the last minute to invoice your customers — make life (and year-end accounting) easier by invoicing your customers throughout the year.
The same holds true for invoice reminders. Your customers and clients get busy, too, and can easily overlook an invoice. Sending out payment reminders helps you get paid faster, improving your cash flow and reducing the number of unpaid invoices you have to deal with at the end of the year.
Your invoicing software or accounting software makes it easy to send invoices and payment reminders, as well as receive payments from your customers. Of course, features vary based on the software your business uses, but many programs offer recurring invoices and automated payment reminders that help you get paid faster with less work on your end.
Keep Track Of Your Income & Expenses Throughout The Year
For a business owner, there are few things more stressful than shuffling through receipts, invoices, and bank statements to get your finances in order. Not only does waiting until the last minute create more work for you (or your bookkeeper), but rushing through makes it easier to miss errors that can affect everything from your financial statements to filing your taxes. Don’t wait to track your income and expenses. Simplify your year-end accounting by tracking income and expenses throughout the year.
You can track your income and expenses through your accounting software. At a minimum, you should include the date of the payment, the amount of the payment, and the payor or payee. For further organization, you may even break down your income streams and expenses into categories if this is an option in your accounting software.
Like many of the other steps in this article, the benefit of tracking your income and expenses is two-fold: it simplifies your year-end accounting and also allows you (or your accountant) to more easily find tax-deductible expenses.
Reconcile Your Bank Accounts Every Month
Accounting is all about balance, and reconciling your bank accounts can help ensure you maintain that balance. To put it simply, reconciling your accounts means that you compare documentation (such as invoices or bills) to ensure they match the transactions in your bank accounts. Sound difficult? Not to worry — your accounting software can come to your rescue again.
Sure, you could sit down and manually compare your bank statements with your bills, receipts, and invoices … or you could let the software do the work for you. Many programs offer a reconciliation feature that lets you securely connect to your business bank accounts. The information is compared to transactions that have been input into your software. If the numbers don’t match up, you know that there’s an error somewhere in your accounting — maybe you forgot to enter an expense, for example. Bank reconciliation goes beyond just user error; it is also a way to detect bank errors or even fraudulent activity.
Reconciling your bank accounts should be a regular bookkeeping task that your business performs at least once per month. Balancing the books and detecting errors on a regular basis is far easier and less time-consuming than waiting until it’s time to do your year-end accounting. Plus, if you notice an error at the end of the yar, it may be too late to set it right.
Separate All Personal & Business Expenses
In a perfect world, all small business owners would have their personal and business expenses separated by using different bank accounts. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for all businesses. If you use one bank account for personal and business expenses, those will need to be separated as part of your year-end accounting process.
Why separate your expenses? Two words: IRS audits. If the IRS has reason to believe that you’re writing off personal expenses as part of your business, you could be audited. And if you don’t have your finances in order, you’ll find it more difficult to get through this audit, potentially paying more money due to poor record-keeping.
Fortunately, some accounting software provides easy, hassle-free options for separating your expenses. If you don’t have separate bank accounts, look for a program that offers this feature, such as Wave. You should also consider opening a business bank account for improved organization heading into the new year.
Count Your Inventory At The Beginning Of The Year
While your accounting software may have an inventory tracking feature, you should never skip over manually counting your inventory. By counting your inventory, you can verify that the data in your software is correct. Your inventory at the beginning of the year should match the closing inventory from the previous year. Counting your inventory is also a way to calculate the cost of goods sold, and is required for several tax forms.
There may be discrepancies in your accounting software and your manual count. This isn’t uncommon and could be due to a number of reasons, such as broken products or items that were stolen. Identifying these discrepancies keeps your books accurate and prevents interruptions to your business, such as unexpectedly running out of stock.
You may also find that you need to clear out some stock as you head into a new year. Products that are obsolete or aren’t selling, for example, can be sold at a reduced price or even donated, which may qualify as an additional tax deduction. Need more year-end sales advice? Check out our top holiday sales tips.
One thing to note is that your inventory should be counted on a day that your business is closed. Products should not be shipped or sold until the inventory is counted and reconciled in your accounting software to ensure accurate counts.
Run Year-End Reports
Running financial reports is a critical step in year-end accounting. These reports give you a clear picture of how your business is doing financially. These reports are also used when filing your tax return. In addition to showing how your business performed through the year, you can also use these reports to set budgets and goals for the year ahead.
There are a few reports that you should always run at the end of each year. These include:
- Profit & Loss Statement: A summary of costs, expenses, and revenues that show whether the business operated at a profit or a loss.
- Balance Sheet: Summarizes the company’s assets, liabilities, and equity.
- Expense Report: A report that tracks expenses necessary for business operations, including reimbursable travel expenses of employees.
- Mileage Log: A report that reflects the beginning and ending mileage on a vehicle used for business purposes.
- Payroll Summary: Summarizes data for paid employees, including wages, taxes, and deductions.
- Sales Tax Summary: A summary of the sales tax you have collected, as well as sales tax you have paid toward your expenses.
You may opt to run additional reports to have a more comprehensive view of the financial state of your business, such as a Statement of Cash Flows or Sales By Item. You should also consult with your accountant to find out about other reports that may be required for filing your tax return.
Most accounting software allows you to easily run at least basic reports, such as P&L Statements and Balance Sheets. For more advanced reporting, a software upgrade may be required. Always make sure to check each report for accuracy. Once you’ve confirmed that your reports are accurate, it’s time to analyze your business performance. Did you meet your financial goals? Are there areas for improvement? Use this data to set a budget and financial goals for your business for the year ahead.
Take Care Of Year-End Payroll
As the end of the year approaches, you can tackle year-end payroll tasks. While some tasks are better reserved for the month of December, you can actually get a jump on completing these tasks by starting in October or November.
To get started, first verify that your company information, such as tax ID numbers and mailing address, are accurate. Next, verify the information of your employees and contractors. This includes taxes, wages, Social Security number or Tax ID, filing status, and mailing address. If information is incorrect, an employee or contractor should review and submit an updated W-9 or W-4.
Also make sure that you prepare in advance for payroll periods that fall during the holidays so there isn’t a delay in payments. In December, you can also run payroll for employee bonuses and make any necessary adjustments.
The Payroll Summary that was mentioned in the previous section should be used to verify that all information is correct. Once you’ve confirmed that all employee information and payroll summary data is correct, you can gather the documents you need to send out 1099-MISC forms and/or W-2s in January. If your payroll processor or accountant will be sending out these tax forms, make sure that everything is in order and you have all required documentation in order to have the forms prepared and mailed out prior to the deadline.
Lock Your Closing Periods
Once you’ve completed your year-end accounting, it’s time to lock your closing periods — or close the books. Once you’ve locked your closing periods, you will be unable to add or make changes, so make sure that you’ve completed all of the necessary steps of year-end accounting before closing your books. Many accounting programs allow you to lock closing periods quite easily just by selecting a date.
If you did find that you made an error, all hope isn’t completely lost. Some software, such as QuickBooks Pro, allows you to set a password that can be used to add, remove, or update transactions.
Start Fresh In The New Year
This all may seem a bit overwhelming, but it’s worth it to have a fresh start for the new year. You’ll be ready for tax time, have new goals in mind for your business, and have a better understanding of your company’s current financial situation.
While some of these steps may be time-consuming (I’m looking at you, inventory counting), knowing what needs to be done and tackling tasks throughout the year will save time and help ease the stress that comes with year-end accounting. Good luck!