Start-up

Top five questions asked by new business owners, part five

Question #5: How much is this going to cost?

For every new client call I get one of the first things I get asked is “How much is this going to cost”? My answer is simple; the price is tailored to you exactly like our services. Each accounting project is different, and in order to give you a price, even a ballpark figure, we have to assess exactly where you are and what you need to maximize your accounting project.

Several factors drive the cost of accounting:

-The volume of bank, credit card, lines of credit and other accounts that are being tracked-for every account that is being used a reconciliation must occur to keep the books in accordance with GAAP. (The Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generally_Accepted_Accounting_Principles_(United_States)
-The volume of transactions in each of the aforementioned accounts that are being tracked-every item that hits the bank or credit card account must be entered (either manually or via download) and then accounted for in reconciliation. If you have very high volume accounts this will definitely take a bit of time
-The frequency with which your business requires reporting-Some small business have higher reporting needs than others in order to get an accurate picture of the accounting puzzle. If you need to see reports weekly or monthly; that will cost more than seeing reports on a quarterly basis. We recommend at least a quarterly reporting schedule for all our clients, to prevent confusion and memory loss on transactions. It’s important to evaluate both the solvency of the business and the accuracy of the bookkeeping in real time.
-The clarity of the books-Sometimes the books are very inaccurate, or may need clean up to get the project moved forward. Other times the books are very behind. These factors will drive the cost of this first phase of your accounting project up.

The good news is, we understand that budget is an issue for any business, especially the ones we cater to. We love entrepreneurs and the small business spirit that drives America. We work with each client to stay within their budget and deliver quality projects, on schedule.

We also maintain good relationships with your CPAs, and we can provide referrals to CPAs when requested. This keeps the cost of accounting lower by making the CPAs job as easy as possible, and cutting out on fixes that can become costly.

Top five questions asked by new business owners, part four

Question #4: Why do you need my statements?

When I meet with new clients I tell them I will need all the bank statements, credit card statements, lines of credit statements and the like in order to get started on their accounting project. I’m frequently asked why I don’t just take their receipts and go from there.

Bank statements provide a clear indication of what has happened with your business. Bank activity can also be printed from most bank websites, but this isn’t enough for a diligent bookkeeper. True bank statements provide a beginning balance and an ending balance so that your bookkeeper can reconcile your account each month.

Banks now offer downloads directly into your QuickBooks software, and it is possible that these downloads can save you time and money. Retail businesses, bars and restaurants, and businesses that don’t use job costing can all benefit from bank downloads. Businesses that have real estate or utilize job costing do better to have manual data entry done on a QuickBooks file to ensure that each transaction is correctly coded; bank downloads aren’t right for these types of businesses.

No matter whether you utilize bank downloads or not, it is still important that you provide any and all bank statements for accounts used in the regular conduct of business to your bookkeeper. This will ensure that they have all that they need to provide you accurate, balanced books for year-end tax preparation.

Providing statements will also allow your bookkeeper to accurately quote you a price for your accounting project, saving you both the hassle of surprise bills and overages.

Top five questions asked by new business owners, part three

Question #3: Should I have employees or contractors?

Your business is growing, and you need help. You can’t be everywhere at once, so it’s important that you hire someone you can trust to take on some of the burdens of running your small business. Once you’ve found that person you hit the pentacle question: Should I pay them as a contractor or as an employee?

Like so many other things, the answer is “it depends.” There is a test that the IRS applies to the employee vs. contractor equation:

Do you determine the hours they work? Contractors make appointments but determine their own schedules, while employees are scheduled at the business owner’s discretion.
Do you provide the instruments they work with? Contractors bring their own tools, computers, vehicles and provide their own insurance. Employees use your equipment.
Do you provide any benefits, insurance, pension or paid time off? Contractors get none of these perks, while employees may.
There is no magic formula to whether or not a person is an employee or not. A good rule of thumb is to offer the person you are thinking of hiring a contract position for a specific period of time. If it works out you can always move them from a contractor position to an employee position at a later date. Make sure you always get the required documentation to allow your bookkeeper to prepare year-end forms like a 1099 or W-2. As always, if you need further assistance in making these decisions you can always call your bookkeeper or tax professional for guidance.

Top five questions asked by new business owners, part one

I’m frequently asked by start-up companies whether or not they should incorporate. My answer is always “that depends”. The best place to start when thinking about whether or not to incorporate is with the different types of incorporation structures.

The easiest way to become a business with the ability to open a separate bank account is to file for an assumed name certificate with your local county clerk. Assumed name certificates, often referred to as a DBA (doing business as) cost just $40 with the Travis County Clerk, and they are simple to file http://traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/Content.do?code=R.13. You can take that certificate to the bank of your choice and open an account, which will make it easier to track your income and expenses. You can also procure an Tax Payer ID with your DBA, that way when clients or vendors ask for your W-9 you no longer have to provide your social security number. You can obtain in EIN here: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/apply-for-an-employer-identification-number-ein-online

It’s important to note-A DBA does not give you the tax breaks or the protection of incorporation; you still file under your own social or tax id that is connected to your social, and you are still subject to the self-employment tax. Depending on your income and the field you work in it may make more sense to add additional protections and tax breaks.

An LLC (limited liability company) gives you the protections of incorporation without the rules that govern S-Corp or C-Corp structures. As a limited liability company the owner isn’t liable for the debts of the business, as long as that debt is in the business name. Similarly, an LLC offers legal protections for litigation brought against the company and may shield an owner from loss of personal property.

In a SINGLE MEMBER LLC the owner may take money out of the company as needed with no restrictions. The LLC structure also allows owners to pass through any profit (or loss) to their personal tax forms, thereby avoiding a “double tax” on profits made by the company. An LLC costs just over $300 and can be secured form the Secretary of State website. You can also hire a professional (like me, or a lawyer) to incorporate an LLC for you for a nominal fee. Again, LLCs don’t provide the tax protection of an S or C corp, so you will still be subjected to the self-employment tax.

In a MULTI-MEMBER LLC the owners must take draws commiserate with their ownership splits and balanced with other partners. Profits and losses are passed to the partners commiserate with their ownership split as well. This allows partnership LLCs to avoid double taxation. Partnership returns are called Form 1065 and are separate from each partners personal return. Remember to file your partnership returns before you file your 1040 or you’ll start getting the dreaded letters form the IRS.

S-Corp structures are more complex. The “S” Corp can be elected by filing a 2553 form on or before 3/15 of the year if you are already an LLC. This structure will basically mean that you MUST pay yourself a “reasonable salary” and pay payroll taxes on that salary. This is an important step to take when your business begins to have net profits that exceed one hundred thousand dollars per partner, give or take. While filing the payroll taxes may seem like a burden, the point of this structure is to shelter your profits from the dreaded self-employment taxes, which can exceed 30% or more. You may still take draws under this structure, but your salary must make sense in balance with those draws.

C-Corp structures are even more complex. In a C-Corp owners must be paid through payroll and the company must contribute to Medicaid, Social Security and state and federal unemployment tax, however, draws are forbidden. If a shareholder must pull money out outside of the payroll structure it has to be done as a loan. The profits are taxed at the corporate level and all profits then are taxed again at the personal level to the shareholder. C-Corps may be useful to large companies looking to mitigate their profits with payroll expenses and pay into certain types of retirements for their shareholders.

The S-Corp and all INC structures also change your due date for taxes, both when they are on time and when they are extended. The new date for on-time filing changes from 4/15 to 3/15, and the final extension date changes from 10/15 to 9/15. This only applies to the business tax filing, which will be separate from your personal filing date. The personal filing date will remain 4/15 and 10/15, respectively.

Generally speaking, a new start-up company would do better under the LLC incorporation structure in most circumstances. If you feel like you might be ready to incorporate, don’t hesitate to call me or whatever professional tax advisor you use to get all the facts before you move ahead. As with all things related to business, doing your homework on this issue really pays off.