Monthly Archives: July 2016
Accounts payable are the bills and other debts that the business needs to pay. As a matter of fact, the only thing that a business pays that is not considered accounts payable is payroll. Everything else falls under the category, making it a critical aspect of your business.
“The accuracy and completeness of a company’s financial statements are dependent on the accounts payable process,” said Harold Averkamp, founder and author of accounting advice website Accounting Coach. “The efficiency and effectiveness of the accounts payable process will also affect the company’s cash position, credit rating and relationship with its suppliers.”
Implementing a dependable accounts payable system will produce accurate financial information you need to plan for both the short and long term. Here’s what you need to know about keeping up with your business debts.
Tracking accounts payable
Accounts payable, sometimes abbreviated as A/P, are tracked monthly for many small businesses, but as the business grows, it is better to make it a weekly task to take advantage of early payment discounts and resolve any credits due to inventory returns. It is handy to keep a record of accounts payable in case there are any payment disputes, to remind the business of current or outstanding invoices, or as proof of spending at tax time. These records can be kept manually or with accounting software. [Best Accounting Software for Small Business]
Working with accounts payable requires a great attention to detail. Each invoice needs to be verified for accuracy, billing date and payment date, and then entered correctly in the general ledger or accounting software. Based on our research, here are some general tips to set up your accounts payable and help the process run smoothly:
Work from the original invoice whenever possible. Some invoices are sent electronically — print once and then file the email away to minimize confusion.
Use the same entering system every time. Each vendor has their own system of invoicing but assigning the invoice number in your system should be consistent. Determine the method, such as using leading zeros, and stick to it.
Enter every invoice individually. This includes multiple monthly invoices from the same supplier. In the event of a dispute, you will want to be able to track it down in your system easily.
Get invoice approval from the appropriate person before entering it. The person approving the invoice should be different than the one entering it. If you are a sole proprietor and do your own bookwork, this may not be possible, but still have a clear process for approval and entry. Keep solid records to support each one.
Look for early payment discounts to save money. It can add up by the end of the year. Some vendors offer a small percentage off the invoice if you pay it within a specified time frame from the invoice date, such as within ten days. If you typically only work with accounts payable once a month, consider a system in which you identify early payment discount opportunities when the invoice is received and pay those separately from the monthly pile.
Cash flow is important to a small business. A solid system of monitoring and paying accounts payable gives you a clear picture of your expenditures against your revenue, enabling better business decisions.
Small businesses live and die by their cash flow and accountability. Accurate recordings of transactions, coupled with proper assessment and processing, give small business owners a firm base on which to make decisions and create plans for growth.
Recording and understanding the sales, expenses and other basic business data should be easy enough for small business owners. But understanding the accounting needs of a business is not always so simple. What type of activity is considered bookkeeping, and when do you need an accountant instead? Is there even a difference between the two?
There is, and it is a simple but important one: Bookkeepers record a company’s day-to-day transactions, while accountants verify and analyze that information.
Bookkeeping versus accounting
A bookkeeper’s territory is daily financial transactions, which include purchases, receipts, sales and payments. Recording these items is usually done through a general ledger or journal. Many small businesses use software such as QuickBooks or Peachtree to keep track of their entries, debits and credits. Their efforts culminate in a trial balance, which means the final total of debits and credits match.
“Bookkeeping is designed to generate data about the activities of an organization,” said D’Arcy Becker, CPA and chairwoman of the Department of Accounting and Finance at the University of Wisconsin. “Accounting is designed to turn data into information.”
The role of an accountant, therefore, is to verify the data entered, and then use that data to generate reports, analyze the account, perform audits and prepare financial reporting records, like tax returns, income statements and balance sheets. An accountant’s analysis of the financial information can provide information for forecasts, business trends, opportunity for growth and when to restrict spending to manage cash flow.
“Accountants look at the big picture,” wrote John Tracy in his book, “Accounting for Dummies” (For Dummies, 5th edition, 2013). “[They] step and back and say, ‘We handle a lot of rebates, we handle a lot of coupons — how should we record these transactions? Do I record just the net amount of the sale or do I record the gross sale amount, too?’ Once the accountant decides how to handle these transactions, the bookkeeper carries them out.”
Hiring a financial professional
Regardless of the size of your company, it is critical for ongoing success to ensure the financial accuracy of daily transactions and use that data to make decisions for the future of your business. If you feel your business is growing too quickly for a “do-it-yourself” approach to finances, you should look into hiring someone to help you keep track and make sense of your business transactions. Business News Daily has published a guide to choosing a business accountant if you’re not sure where to begin.
While many small businesses hire an accountant outside the company, bookkeeping is more diverse. Some small business owners do their own bookkeeping on software recommended or used by their accountant, providing it to him or her on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis for action. Other small businesses are large enough to employ a bookkeeper, or have a small accounting department with data- entry clerks reporting to the bookkeeper.
Accounts receivable are the lifeblood of a business’s cash flow. Sometimes referred to as A/R, “accounts receivable” is the accounting term used to refer to the money that the business should receive from its customers for the goods or services it provided.
Your business’s accounts receivable are an important part of calculating your profitability, and provide the clearest indicator of the business’s income. They are considered an asset, as they represent money coming into the company. To determine profitability, add up all of your assets, including accounts receivable, and subtract your total accounts payable, or liabilities, which are what you owe to suppliers and vendors. If the number is positive, the company is profitable. If it’s negative, then decisions must be made regarding how to increase the assets or reduce the liabilities.
Why track accounts receivable?
If you do not keep track of accounts receivable, you may forget to bill certain customers or will not know if you’ve been paid. You may end up providing your product for free and negatively impact your ability to be profitable. The longer it takes to send the invoice, the less likely it will be that your payment will be sent. Keeping track of accounts receivable is also a great way to have documentation supporting proof of income at tax time.
Accounts receivable are best managed on a consistent and routine basis. In retail, each transaction is paid for immediately. With other industries, customers apply for a credit line, and orders are placed against the credit line. The customer is provided an invoice and payment terms with the shipped product, payable at a later date. Regardless of your system, ensuring payment is crucial. Here are five tips to make sure your business stays on top of its accounts receivables:
Communicate. In a 2013 Transworld Business article, Jason Stine, business development manager for collection services company CRF Solutions, advised regular and prompt communication with clients. Stay on top of transactions; more nonpayment errors develop in the first 60 days after delivery because of insufficient or incomplete customer contact, Stine said.
Create a solid internal process. Determine the process for performing accounts receivable, and stick to it. Pick a day of the week to create, print and mail invoices. Choose another day to print an aged accounts receivable report and contact customers who are beyond their payment term window. As your small business grows, you may need to split these tasks among different people to stay on top of all the accounts.
Confirm receipt of invoices. Many companies have had success in contacting the client a week after the invoice was sent, in order to confirm receipt. Things do get lost in the mail or accidentally deleted in an email inbox. A quick inquiry about receipt of the bill also provides the chance to ask for feedback on the product provided, demonstrating your excellent customer service skills as well.
Extend credit with moderate terms. With today’s technological advances, companies can receive payment before shipping an order or starting a service. With service-based companies and high-cost goods, however, that may not always be possible. In those cases, have the client apply for a credit line. You will be able to evaluate their payment ability and set a credit limit you’re comfortable with. It also provides an opportunity to be sure both parties are clear on the terms of payment and what happens if the account goes delinquent.
Document everything. Documentation of accounts receivable helps your bookkeeper with weekly or monthly inputs for financial statements and your accountant at tax time. From first contact, keep notes on the order, conversations and agreed-upon terms. In a worst-case scenario, that documentation will also be important should you have to pursue payment through a collection agency or court.
The funds collected through your accounts-receivable process is the food that fuels the actions of your company. Inconsistent and spotty attention to the task can starve a company’s growth, while a steady and smooth process results in a well-fed machine capable of achieving all of its goals.
Choosing the right point-of-sale (POS) system is key to a business’s success. While factors like type of POS system, features, cost and limitations are all important considerations, it’s easy to overlook one of the most critical aspects of using POS systems: security.
Understanding POS security isn’t for the faint of heart. Not only are regulations complex, but keeping up with changes is a whole other beast. As a small business owner, however, dealing with POS security is a necessary evil if you want the convenience and benefits of accepting credit cards.
To help you make sense of POS security and better protect your business and customers, we asked experts to share their tips on what to look for in a secure POS system.
1. Is the POS system PCI compliant?
The first thing to look for is whether your new POS system meets the required regulations for accepting credit cards.
The first thing to look for is whether your new POS system meets the required policies for accepting credit cards. For instance, new credit card regulations require merchants to have EMV chip-enabled POS systems by Oct. 15. [Learn more about EMV].
There is also a huge change happening soon. Starting June 30, businesses are required to comply with version 3.1 of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). These new PCI 3.1 standards are mandatory, and any business that fails to comply could face steep penalties. Although vendors have taken the necessary measures, it’s your responsibility to make sure your business is truly compliant.
“Any business that accepts credit card payments for goods or services must be PCI compliant,” said Tony Ciccerone, a Detroit-based territory manager for Heartland Payment Systems. This means that in addition to following the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) rules for credit card processing, your POS itself must meet PCI standards for merchants.
This is important because if your customers’ information is leaked, you could be on the hook for financial damages, even if your company uses PayPal or some other third-party service provider to process your credit card transactions, said Vikas Bhatia, founder and CEO of cybersecurity firm Kalki Consulting. “Make sure to ask your service provider for proof that they passed their PCI DSS evaluations,” he said.