TAXES: How to Keep Your Business Organized Year Round
If you’re one of the thousands of small business owners who procrastinate until the bitter end on your taxes, or you find yourself struggling year round to sort invoices, receipts and other valuable records, you’re not alone. Even though tax season is dreaded by many, it can be a good incentive for better organization throughout the year.
With a little strategy and planning, small business owners can get a jump on keeping their records organized all year, not only to reduce stress come tax season but also to keep their focus on what’s much more important – increasing productivity and maximizing profits.
Here are some tips from the Intuit PaymentNetwork (IPN) team and Mike D’Avolio, Intuit’s Senior Tax Analyst, for tax season and during the rest of the year that will help “de-clutter the e-clutter.”
Start fast, finish strong: Small business owners should maintain organized tax records throughout the year as a way to make tax preparation more efficient. This practice will drastically speed up the time it takes to get the return completed and also provides an easier, potentially cost-saving means to addressing an IRS inquiry about the return in the future.
So what does this mean exactly? According to the IRS, the following documents, whether paper or electronic, should be retained by the small business owner throughout the year:
- Gross receipts: cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, receipt books, invoices, credit card charge slips and Forms 1099-MISC and 1099-K
- Proof of purchases: canceled checks, cash register tape receipts, credit card sales slips, invoices, account statements and petty cash slips
- Documents to verify assets: purchase and sale invoices, real estate closing statements and canceled checks
- Employment tax records
After year-end, be sure to start collecting and organizing source documents (Form 1099s, etc.) from financial institutions, the government and others so you’re not rushing around later in the process. And for an added edge, begin planning ahead for next year’s estimated taxes by running projections of your income and expenses and looking at tax law changes to avoid unexpected curveballs when crunch time comes around. Keeping close track of these recommended documents combined with starting the process in advance will most certainly make tax season less painful.
Work smarter, not harder: Now that you know exactly what items to keep track of all year, you’ll need tools to help with organization. You no longer have to rely on file cabinets or shoeboxes – several well-designed (and often times, well-priced or even free) online programs have cropped up in the past couple of years that are designed specifically for this purpose. They will certainly save time and money by cutting down on clutter.
- For large files: Since file sharing and management can be a hassle for businesses of any size, software like Dropbox, Sugarsync, Box and Syncplicity allow users to sync files between computers and upload photos from a mobile phone.
- For document storage: Programs like eDoc Organizer, iManage Work Site, Worldox and Doc.It allow users to organize a variety of electronic documents with software making document organization a breeze. You can find a helpful and unbiased comparison of these services at FindTheBest.com. Need a mobile phone solution? Check out Intuit Paper Trail.
- For invoice tracking: Solutions like Intuit PaymentNetwork (IPN), ZoHo and QuoteBase allow merchants to accurately track customer invoices, with IPN allowing merchants to use custom paylinks and eCommerce buttons to see the name of the person paying them, as well as the goods or services the customer is paying for. Also consider invoice automation software, which will allow users to minimize software use and allow them to focus on business related activities.
Small business owners who commit to stay organized year-round – and arm themselves with tools in which to do it – will see increased production. In turn, they will see dividends that pay out continually over time.
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